Sunday, March 10, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS visible in Singapore

Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) will be at its brightest today 10 March 2013 shortly after sunset.

This comet is potentially visible in Singapore BUT it will be very challenging to observe because it is very near the horizon (5 degrees away) and will disappear below the horizon at about 8:18pm.

You need to have an unobstructed view of the west and clear skies to even stand a chance of seeing it here.

So if you intend to catch it, enjoy it as a challenge and do NOT have too high expectation of how it will look like. The bright and long-tail comet images you see online of PanSTARRS are mostly taken with long-exposure photography techniques and at good locations in the world.

To increase you chances, try to go as high up as possible which has a good Western view - e.g. hill tops, tall buildings, roof top gardens, multi-storey carparks, etc. Do take note of your own safety at such heights. You may also try long-exposure photography of that area and may stand a chance to catch it in your photos though visually your eyes may not see it in the sky. Some of my friends did that yesterday successfully!

Image Credit: Kens Goh

Another friend of mine saw it visually through his 8-inch diameter telescope at Labrador Park on the same day. Check out his report and photo here:

Instrument wise, try to use a pair of binocular or better still a telescope. For telescope, if you have a choice, try to use one that has a big primary mirror/lens and still capable of giving wide and relatively low magnification. You do not wish to over magnify the comet as it may render this already dim object even dimmer.

Using a binocular is always better than not using any optical instrument at all.

WARNING: Do NOT look at the setting Sun directly with or without optic instrument. It can cause permanent damage to your eyes. Proper viewing of the Sun requires certified special solar filters and astronomers who know how to operate solar telescopes safely.

This is where you should look at from about 7:55pm when the sky is about to get dark -- 265 degrees (West). Use an accurate compass to find this direction. Will be great if there are distant background objects near this degree which can then be used a visual marker to scan up and down the sky for the comet.

This comet will appear about 5 degrees above horizon - about the 4 fingers width held at your arms length. With every passing minute, it will "move" nearer and nearer to the horizon until it is completely blocked below the horizon at about 8:18pm.

Thus, you must try to aim to find/photograph this comet as early as possible. With every passing minute, your chances of seeing it will decrease because in addition to potential clouds, the atmospheric distortion of light will be very high near the horizon.

We should be still be able to see this comet in the next couple of days after the sunset if the sky is clear. But today is still the best chance as it is potentially the brightest.

There is a bigger, brighter and easier-to-spot comet appearing in our skies in November this year - Comet ISON. Assuming it doesn't break up, it should be a spectacular sight! So regardless of your outcome of trying to observe Comet PanSTARRS, you may gain some useful experience for spotting Comet ISON.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Nobody alive today will see this comet again.

Check out this webpage for some amazing photos of this comet captured in various countries:

Wishing all of you good luck and clear skies!

No comments:

Post a Comment