A Weekend of Comet PANSTARRS: Spectacular Images and Videos

by Nancy Atkinson on March 18, 2013

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Comet PANSTARRS above a farm near Alto, Michigan. Credit: Kevin's Stuff on Flickr.

Comet PANSTARRS above a farm near Alto, Michigan. Credit: Kevin’s Stuff on Flickr.

Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) keeps getting easier to see, and over the weekend, we were inundated with images and videos from astrophotographers around the world. NASA says that solar heating from the comet’s close pass of the Sun last week has caused the comet to glow brighter than a first magnitude star. Bright twilight sharply reduces visibility, but it is still an easy target for binoculars and small telescopes 1 and 2 hours after sunset. And as of March 15th, people reported they can see the comet with the unaided eye.

See more images and videos below!

Timelapse of comet Panstarrs from Leiden Observatory from Fred Kamphues on Vimeo.

Photographer Fred Kamphues took this timelapse from the Leiden Observatory in The Netherlands, the oldest astronomical observatory in the world still active today. Kamphues notes that astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort of Leiden Observatory discovered the origin of comets in 1950. The observatory is used today by student astronomers to learn observing.

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) taken on March 16 from Mount Faito (Naples, Italy). Credit and copyright: Ernesto Guido & Antonio Catapano

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) taken on March 16 from Mount Faito (Naples, Italy). Credit and copyright: Ernesto Guido & Antonio Catapano

Special filters and a negative image to try and 'tease out the structure of the tail,' says photographer David G. Strange.

Special filters and a negative image to try and ‘tease out the structure of the tail,’ says photographer David G. Strange.

Comet PANSTARRS over Tallinn, Estonia on March 16, 2013.  Credit and copyright: Karthikeyan VJ

Comet PANSTARRS over Tallinn, Estonia on March 16, 2013.
Credit and copyright: Karthikeyan VJ

Comet PANSTARRS over the San Gabriel mountains on 3/12/2013 above Pasadena,CA,  3-4 miles from Mt.Wilson. Shot with a with Canon 60D. Credit and copyright: Henry Levenson.

Comet PANSTARRS over the San Gabriel mountains on 3/12/2013 above Pasadena,CA, 3-4 miles from Mt.Wilson. Shot with a with Canon 60D. Credit and copyright: Henry Levenson.

Comet PANSTARRS, shot from near Keene, Ontario, Canada, on March 16, 2013, using a Canon 50D (modified) with Canon 200mm lens; 4 sec. exp.; f/4.5; 640 ISO. Credit and copyright: Rick Stankiewicz, Peterborough Astronomical Association (PAA)

Comet PANSTARRS, shot from near Keene, Ontario, Canada, on March 16, 2013, using a Canon 50D (modified) with Canon 200mm lens; 4 sec. exp.; f/4.5; 640 ISO. Credit and copyright: Rick Stankiewicz, Peterborough Astronomical Association (PAA)
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This video, above, from UT reader Brent (a.k.a. HelloBozos) in Florida shows this compilation of views of the Sun and the comet. "At 2:08 in the video, a bird flies in front of the camera," Brent said via email, "This was all done off the side the road, on 3-16-13 8pm-8:30pm."

[caption id="attachment_100801" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Comet PANSTARRS over Arizona on March 16, 2013. Credit and copyright: Chris Schur Comet PANSTARRS over Arizona on March 16, 2013. Credit and copyright: Chris Schur

This image is from Chris Schur in Arizona. He says, “Note the fan tail appearing! Also the tail is really starting to curve in the images. Very easy to see naked eye, and so was the yellow color in binoculars when it gets lower.”

Comet PANSTARRS on March 17, 2013. Credit and copyright: Andrei Juravle.

Comet PANSTARRS on March 17, 2013. Credit and copyright: Andrei Juravle.

Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) taken near Koprivnica (Koprivni?ki Bregi), Croatia. Credit and copyright: Vedran Matica.

Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) taken near Koprivnica (Koprivni?ki Bregi), Croatia. Credit and copyright: Vedran Matica.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Gozlemci March 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

So far, the weather didn’t let us to see it… What a luck !

Tomek Rospondek March 18, 2013 at 4:50 PM

For how long can we watch it? Question from Poland :)

Karthik Vj March 18, 2013 at 5:27 PM

till end of this month.. probably also during first week of April.

Tomek Rospondek March 18, 2013 at 6:35 PM

Thanks :)
I hope that there will be at least one cloudless night till then…

El March 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM

what time and where I can find it in Ontario (east of Toronto)?

Aqua4U March 18, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Dang double darn and drat… clouded out AGAIN last night. Come on #46! I know you are out there! Tick-tock… tick-tock.. time keeps on arolling.. into the future.. Tick-tock-tick!

Aqua4U March 18, 2013 at 9:37 PM

Night BEFORE last I went out to the coast and met two other comet viewing wanna-be’s. We were disappointing – stupid clouds. Ever think about how this comet, like many others but especially in ‘Hello-Bozos’ video, looks kinna like a rocket launch?

Aqua4U March 18, 2013 at 9:39 PM

P.S. What’s up with Elizabeth’s article on Mercury? Comments are closed already….. too soon?

Me March 19, 2013 at 1:53 AM

Yeah, me toooooo! Mine happens to be low clouds called ‘fog’. Good for earths plants but not for star gazing.

Kevin Frushour March 19, 2013 at 4:29 AM

Stupid clouds in Pittsburgh….

NGC300 March 19, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Couldn’t spot it.

MichaelRWorthingon March 20, 2013 at 1:29 AM

I’ve seen it three nights so far in Atlanta and N GA. It is getting dimmer every day though…I could see it with the naked eye last Tuesday but now need to use binoculars. But I was also up in the mtns last Tuesday and in the suburbs today with smog and light pollution.

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