Comet Hunting in March


Comet Hunting in March

Sunday 3rd March

I went back down to Cape Schanck again, but this time rather than heading down to the lighthouse, I stopped on the side of the road looking out over a farm (that I had scoped out on Google Streetview). This is the kind of image I was hoping to capture - I love it when a plan comes together!

Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs, Sunday 3rd March 2013, Cape Schanck. Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs, Sunday 3rd March 2013 Five frame panorama with Canon 6D DSLR and 300mm Pentax lens. Each frame 3 secs, f4, ISO800

As Comet Panstarrs was setting, it was getting far too faint to capture with short exposures. So I did some intentionally long exposures, resulting in this star-and-comet-trail image.

Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs, Sunday 3rd March 2013

Saturday 2nd March

Naked eye comets are quite rare.. perhaps one every few years so to have two comets in the same part of the sky at once that are (just barely) visible to the naked eye is quite a treat. Last night (Saturday 2nd March) I went down to Cape Schanck to find some clear air and a low south-western horizon to capture Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs and C/2012 F6 Lemmon. This panorama is not without several faults which I don't think will be easily rectified, but it gives a good view and may help you find them yourself if you have a chance to go looking.

Comet Panstarrs and Comet Lemmon Five frame panorama with Canon 6D DSLR and 50mm lens. Each frame 8 secs, f2, ISO1600.

Comet Panstarrs will only be visible from the southern hemisphere for a few more nights. After that it will become a target for northern hemisphere observers and should be even brighter than it is currently. But it will still take some effort to pick it out of the bright twilight after sunset - a pair of binoculars makes it much easier to see. The sun set a little to the right of Comet Panstarrs, in the centre of that low arc of twilight on the horizon. So if you note the position where the sun set and then look a little left and above that 45 minutes later you should be able to find Comet Panstarrs in the twilight, especially with binoculars. Northern hemisphere observers can get some good advice on this page from Sky and Telescope.


Fabulous photograph! Of course!!

Cette comète est en effet visible depuis la France ces jours-ci.
J'espèrais l'apercevoir à l'oeil nu, mais le ciel est couvert en ce moment, là où j'habite.
Merci de ne pas l'avoir laissée filer de votre côté !!
Vous avez réalisé un superbe cliché, avec une belle mise en scène.
Chapeau bas.

Love the shot over the farm at Cape Schanck - colours are amazing and it's so clear - looks like the weather gods were smiling on you.

Thanks Merryn! The weather gods were smiling that night but not so much later that week.. but two nights in a row down there was enough for me :-)