Comet PANSTARRS shares stage with crescent moon

Dave Kodama took this superb picture of Comet PANSTARRS and the lunar crescent last night from southern California. Details: 180mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 1600 and 1/2″ exposure. Click for larger version. Credit: Dave Kodama

What raw beauty! It almost hurts to look at these if clouds have frustrated you these past nights. I’m grateful we can at least see them through the eyes of others. Thanks to the moon’s proximity, some folks finally got their first looks at Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS last night.

Many observers report that the comet is faint with the naked eye, but shows up well in binoculars and through the camera. Have patience. PANSTARRS is moving farther and farther up and away from the sun into a dark sky. Later this week it should become much more obvious even as it slowly fades.

Another view of PANSTARRS and the moon last night photographed by amateur astronomer Mike Holloway who runs the Holloway Comet Observatory in Van Buren, Ark. Details: 6 sec exp – 220mm lens at f/5.6. Click for larger version.

To those who’ve been plagued with clouds, don’t give up hope. Be persistent and watch the western sky a half hour after sunset for approximately a half hour. In that narrow slot of time PANSTARRS will be best. Tonight the moon will oblige a second time. The comet will appear about one fist held at arm’s length to the lower right of the crescent moon.

Comet PANSTARRS by itself from Southern California last night. Credit: Dave Kodama

Dave Kodama, who took the photo at top, offers this: “It is much smaller than I had been visualizing, and very close to the sunset. I could not see it without binoculars.” Good luck in the hunt!

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

6 thoughts on “Comet PANSTARRS shares stage with crescent moon

  1. Last magnitude estimate taken from Spain was 1.1 magnitude. Maybe, I will see the comet after all if these clouds can stay away 1 night over the next week.

  2. Bob, do you have an estimate on what days it might be highest in the sky? I know its still visible most of the month, but with the haze and light pollution and trees+flat land i feel like thats a good chance to catch a good view!!! Thank you so much for all these updates by the way :) I am really thankful for this website! I wont give up looking for it!

  3. I was able to get 1-2 shots of the comet (I think) tonight. I did not know until I got home. I had to take them earlier than I would have liked, as we had a bank of clouds coming in. The comet, due to the light we still had, was faint and small. Certainly nothing spectacular. I was trying to figure out how to send the pics, but I could not. Otherwise they are on my blog listed above. Thanks.

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