Sunday, March 17, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS small but brilliant!

March 16, about 19H15 Eastern Daylight Savings time
A small but brilliant comet called Pan- STARRS is adorning the early evening sky, right at sunset and for a short time after.  To see it, you need a clear sky and a clear view to the west.  It is basically following the sun, on the exact same trajectory in the sky, and appears like a small airplane contrail, but with a distinctive angle and not the movement of a plane.  As the earth is rotating at 15 degrees an hour, it drops quickly below the horizon after sunset - leaving perhaps 20  minutes of viewing time.  Apparently the comet will be visible for another week or two.  Yesterday the comet had a straight-line contrail that was golden in colour.  Today the contrail was forked and spectacular, but I was too late to get a photo.  I had my 10 by 42 binoculars with me, and a spotting scope which helped as the comet dimmed near the horizon.    Comets are surely one of the most exciting natural phenomena to observe for anyone, as they are such rare occurrences.  Make sure you get out and watch this one.