Joe’s Wx Blog: It’s comet night(s)!

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I never really know how to approach these celestial events because usually they don’t live up to my expectations. Tonight should be, assuming clear skies, the night we get a chance to see what the southern hemisphere has been seeing for the last couple of weeks in the skies. The comet Pan-STARRS will be in the western skies just after sunset near the rising moon. Actually it’s really not only tonight but for the next few nights very close to a rising moon as a matter of fact.

If you remember, or perhaps you didn’t see it, I wrote about this a few days ago but I did want to remind you about it today since it should be a sight to see, preferably with binoculars or even a decent telescope. It has been seen in the southern hemisphere rather readily I guess for awhile now and there are pictures to prove it.

The thing about these types of events is that they always disappoint me, either I’m just not seeing what others are, or I’m not looking in the right place, or I just plain forget, so I don’t want to build this up too much in case this too disappoints but let’s see how things go. I can provide you though with some help from various websites that I’m been researching.

1) The best time to look is after sunset towards the west. There is about a 60-75 minute window in the twilight apparently when it might be seen. It should be very low towards the horizon but over the next several evenings gradually rise and be close to the rising moon that starts on Tuesday evening,  that rising moon however may pose a problem as the week moves along, because the brightness of the moons light may overtake the brightness of the comet.

Here is a picture courtesy of NASA that shows the rough positioning of the comet after sunset during the twilight…


2) It should appear as a “fuzzy” looking star and it’s possible that given a pair of binoculars, you might be able to see the “tail” to it. This is the part that really gets tricky because comets are notoriously fickle things and made of big balls of ice. Their orbit/interaction with the sun sometimes makes them spectacular looking an other times makes them a dud, so that’s why I’m NOT promising anything concerning this phenomena.

3) You really need to let your eyes adjust to what’s going on. Just don’t go outside look to the west and give it 5 secs before you decide, that’s it…can’t see it and go back inside. Remember 1st you need to have a great exposure to the western horizon where trees etc aren’t in the way. Remember this will be very low on the horizon but it will be getting higher over the next few evenings. So perhaps tomorrow or Wednesday evening you may have better luck.

4) The folks from Stardate Magazine, published by the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, TX created this image which I think will help you in searching for the comet over the next few nights.


4) Folks are saying that using a camera that has the ability of shooting in low light situations and taking some long exposure shots are good ways of seeing the comet.

5) There is a ton of additional information out there and go to this article for more

Good luck, and again NO promises on my end about this!  If you can’t or don’t see it it’s not my fault…just one of those things I guess!.

That’s it for today, I’m encouraged from a temperature standpoint for later in the week, but by the same token am discouraged about today as clouds may hold tough enough to keep temperatures from even reaching 35°. We should see clearing later this afternoon though. hopefully in time to see the comet.

Also later in the week there may be a day or two that we can make a real run through the 60s. I do have concerns about the weekend and am not totally confident at this point that it will be totally dry. Hopefully things will work out for all the parades/celebrations etc but there are some concerns, especially about Sunday. We’ll see and hope the luck of the Irish will get us through another weekend. I do remember last year being in the parade and going down Broadway and seeing the Pear trees all in full white bloom. That will not be the case this year. Maybe tomorrow I’ll blog about the daily difference between last March and this March.


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