Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Wee Wisp of a Smudge!

It was a week ago tonight I last spotted comet PanSTARRS from the front of my friend Pat's house.  Melinda and  looked for it the other night from our cul-de-sac without success - I blamed our horizon.  This comet seems to be conspiring against observers - it continues moving northward, but is still not visible in a twilight-free sky, and the moon, now nearing its full phase, isn't helping!

Tonight, as Melinda left for work, I headed towards the foothills, settling on an observing spot along Christie road, north of Ina.  Pretty much as soon as I pulled over, another car pulled in too - I figured it was an area resident giving me grief, but no, another amateur sky gazer had joined me in my quest.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my binoculars (DOH!), but my new friend did, so I set up the XSi with the 70-200 zoom, and a new little tracking platform to make tracked shots easier.  Soon after we started searching, I spotted the comet in a wide shot with the camera, then zoomed into the little smudge.  I took a series of 10 second exposures to stack, and it looked reasonable in the back of the camera, but we were never able to spot it in her binoculars.  The pic at left shows a singe 6 second exposure before it got truly dark, the one on right shows the stacked image, croped from the 200mm focus shot - more stars, but unimpressive in the twilight and hazy horizon with a bright moon.  I don't think it will truly be in a dark sky for weeks, and by then will be considerably fainter.  At least it is good practice for future comets!  This next Winter, comet Ison will be visible in the pre-dawn sky the middle of December.  At least it leaps away from its close approach to the sun, and doesn't dally close to the horizon like PanSTARRS.  Something to look forward to!


Anonymous said...

Winds were conspiring the past few days as well. these photos are surprisingly nice considering the level of dust/particulates in the air with the recent afternoon wind gusts. photos look great.

Anonymous said...

was out looking with binoculars last eve. also could not be seen on a clean low horizon with so much haze; even without clouds.