Comet PANSTARRS for die-hards

Comet PANSTARRS climbs toward the North Star through Cepheus the King in the coming nights. It passes close to Gamma Cephei May 12-14, making it easy to find. Click map for a completely updated finder map and more details. Stellarium

Some of you have asked about a new map for locating famed Comet L4 PANSTARRS as it treks through Cepheus headed for the North Star. Well, here ya’ go. PANSTARRS currently shines around magnitude 7 and should still be easily visible in 50mm or larger binoculars as a faint fuzzy spot with perhaps a hint of tail. The comet’s visible all night long for observers at mid-northern latitudes. Share your impressions with us via Comments if you see it.

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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.

8 thoughts on “Comet PANSTARRS for die-hards

  1. Yoshimoto observed both comets on May 2. If his magnitude estimates are accurate, Lemmon is headed toward magnitude 7, and Panstaars, magnitude 8.Both are going to be a little difficult with my 20 power binoculars. Maybe I will try to spot them with my 3 inch telescope I bought at Walmart a few years ago.

  2. Hey Bob,
    Just found Comet Lemmon after an unusual spell of uncooperative weather for Tucson. I used an 80mm, f5 refractor, first with a 25mm eyepiece, then with a 10mm to be sure I was really seeing that tiny fuzzball. This was my 30th comet–starting with Kohoutek in December of 1973. I remember Kohoutek being in Corvus. Isn’t that where ISON will be when it reaches binocular brightness? That spooks me a bit. Another question about ISON: have any other comets survived passages that close to the sun? Ikeya-Seki, maybe? I saw McNaught in daylight in December of 2006. If ISON can match McNaught’s post-perihelion, southern hemisphere show–wow. We can hope. Keep up the good work and thanks a lot.
    Norman S.

    • Hi Norman,
      A pat on the back for seeing Lemmon! Comet ISON will reach binocular limit around mag. 8 in late Oct. in Leo and will brighten to mag. 5.6-6 by mid-Nov. when in Virgo. That’s as close as it gets to Corvus. I don’t know which comet has come closest to the sun and survived – good question. Ikeya-Seki passed 725,000 miles away in 1965, Comet Lovejoy was much closer at 87,000 miles in Dec. 2011. ISON’s perihelion distance is around 700,000 miles so it’s not a record-breaker.

  3. [IMG]http://imageshack.us/a/img191/6286/dsc01089c.jpg[/IMG]
    Hi Bob,
    I finally got a chance to look for PanSTARRS again on the morning of 5/5.
    It’s been so long since my last observation of it in a bright twilight sky that
    the many background stars of Cepheus kind of confused me at first.
    As it turned out, a sweep of the suspected location at 25x with my Antares 6″
    refractor revealed PanSTARRS as an easily seen fuzzball.
    I don’t have really fancy imaging cameras but my old Sony DSC F-707 attached
    to the scope revealed a respectable scene with a 30 second exposure.
    For a little more camera-oomph, I then caught the image above with my Canon T1i and a 2 minute exposure at ISO 800. What a wonderful time!
    The sky was crystal clear with a “cooperating steady temperature of 35 degrees
    F.
    Please let me know if the image won’t open.
    Thanks for your great website!
    Bill, in Massachusetts

    • Hi Bill,
      Very nice! You captured both tails. Thanks for the link. Even though this comet is fading, it still has a remarkable structure, and I agree, Cepheus is busy with stars and a little confusing at first.

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