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Find the Comet


Pan-Starrs from Limekilns

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) from Limekilns

This picture contains a comet. It’s not obvious, but it’s there. Click on the image to enlarge.

See it now? Half way up, right of centre?

In this picture, taken not long after sunset on 15th March 2013, the comet could easily be mistaken for a cloud, but there’s a clue – the large bank of cloud is dark against the sky glow. The comet is lighter.

Another clue, for those who were there on the night, is that the object has a different shape in the picture to that which we saw in binoculars. It moved slightly, downwards and to the right, during the 30-second exposure. The rotation of the earth is responsible, giving it some motion blur.

The way we knew where to look was by following star charts and using software such as Stellarium and Sky Safari.





Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) from Braefoot


Here’s another picture, taken on 30th March 2013, later at night when it’s properly dark. (Again, click to enlarge.)

Can you see the comet?

Compare the photograph with the simulated view below. Can you match up the star patterns in the two images? (Hint: You might have to rotate one of the images to make things match up.)

Can you see anything else in the images that’s fuzzy and not star-like? What do you think it is?

Try downloading your own copy of Stellarium (or another similar program) and see if you can reproduce the simulated image and learn more about the other objects in the picture.


Simulated view of comet in night sky

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