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Comet Alert: March 12-??

nrothschild

US
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nrothschild Neil is an expert in several areas, including camera support Registered since 25th Jul 2004
Thu 07-Feb-13 12:11 PM | edited Sat 09-Feb-13 01:54 AM by nrothschild

This NASA Link discusses the Northern Hemisphere viewing opportunities for Comet Pan-STARRS. It also discusses another potentially much better comet expected to appear in November 2013.

On March 12 the comet will appear just slightly above and left of the 26 hour old new moon (USA East Coast). It is a great setup for a fabulous image!

I previously posted a discussion regarding Chasing New and Old Moons. It should be required reading for anyone planning to shoot this comet . Shooting thin crescent moons has always been a favorite of mine. Here we have a fortuitous coincidence where we have a comet and a very thin and challenging crescent moon. As such I've taken the liberty of pinning these two posts to the top of the forum for the duration of this Comet apparition.

In my prior post I included an image of a 29 hour moon. This should give you an idea of the expected conditions and difficulty. That 29 hour moon was about 3 hours older (USA East Coast) than this upcoming new moon in March, and therefore a tad easier than this will be. The younger the moon the more difficult to photograph because the moon is closer to the sun, and as a result the sky is brighter and the moon lower in altitude.

(To avoid confusion, the image in my prior post was intentionally shot to illustrate that new moon setting. It could have been, and was shot higher in the sky, but it was not very high when it first appeared)

In Great Britain, the moon will be about 5 hours newer than East Coast USA, or about 21 hours of age, even more difficult. On the West Coast USA it will be 3 hours older at sunset, or about 26 hours old, about the same as my posted image. In other words, the relative difficulty will be dependent on your longitude, and also latitude.

This comet will require a very clear view of the western horizon, something you can plan for. It will also require reasonably clear air at the horizon with no thick clouds. Tougher to plan for. Where I live (East Coast USA), March is a generally poor month for clear air but it is certainly possible. Just takes more luck than average.

My linked image was shot at 220mm on FX, and I think would make a nice composition for a comet. It can, of course, be shot at longer focal lengths and there are certainly good reasons to do so. However, you do not need specialized gear for this. I think a good landscape composition is more important.

Some general advice:

1. Pick your location well in advance.

2. Arrive 30-60 minutes before sunset, and be fully set up at the moment of sunset.

3. Bring binoculars and use them to locate the moon, which will be about 13 degrees above the sun and less than a degree "left" of it (it will be almost directly above the sun). It will NOT be visible at the moment of sunset. Expect to see it about 15 minutes later, when it will be at an altitude of about 10 degrees. With luck, my linked image suggests it is possible to follow it right down to the horizon.

The following evening or two will also be good, but with the moon 15 degrees further above the comet each night. After that the brightness of the waxing moon will increasingly interfere, although the comet will be slightly higher above the horizon, which may help a bit. But not much.

The full moon occurs March 27. A couple days after, the moon will be rising after dusk, again allowing for potential viewing and photography. However, I have not seen projections other than what is posted in that Nasa link. We should keep an eye out for that, and as the comet approaches, the quality of the predictions, in terms of brightness, should improve.

Good luck, and post your images!

_________________________________
Neil


my Nikonians gallery.

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