I just can't seem to get enough of the latest Comet PanSTARRS performance. The Earth crossed the orbital plane of the comet early in the week, and instead of a anemic comet with a small tail, the comet appears to have a HUGE anti-tail many degrees long! It isn't very bright, but still visible in hand-held binoculars, including a couple degrees of anti-tail. But it is still easy to photograph, with exposures of a fraction of a minute showing it and its new tail appendage.
Tuesday night, I again headed North up the Mount Lemmon Highway in search of dark northern skies. Instead of stopping at Geology Vista, I went up another 3 miles and perhaps 500 feet higher to San Pedro Vista. Those few extra miles distance to the Tucson metropolitan area makes a big difference. I set up at the pullout and set up 2 cameras. The first was with my tripod-mounted Canon XSi and a 50mm lens (a Nikon F/1.4 stopped to F/3.5). With the comet so close to the celestial pole, it doesn't trail very much - I took a series (15 in total) of 1 minute exposures, then used the program "Nebulosity" to take out the rotation around Polaris, and reduce the noise from individual exposures. The lens' field of view is wide enough to show all of the Little Dipper, as well as a pretty good view of the comet, anti-tail, and it also caught the passing of an Iridium Flare during one of the exposures! It is shown at left, and an annotated version is shown at right.
Heavens-Above). A fainter satellite also appears - many were in the above stacked frame, but only the Iridium Flare was bright enough to show in the sum (appeared to be about magnitude -2).
Another great night of comet observing. The tail will tilt-offline from the main tail and get faint again, but the visibility of this anti-tail will be burned in my memory as quite spectacular! The Grand Canyon Star Party starts in 8 days, and I'm hoping we'll be able to show some good telescopic views to the public there...