A Weekend of Comet PANSTARRS: Spectacular Images and Videos
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.
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.
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.”