Comets PANSTARRS and Lemmon from June 7/8
Posted 19 June 2013 - 12:28 AM
On Friday night, June 7th, the stars aligned (so to speak) and I thought I'd give it a go, at least to visit these two comets. C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) was favorably positioned near the North Celestial Pole, so I hunted it down right after the sky got dark (which is none too early in June). I had some issues with finding a decent place to set up while dodging all the neighbors' porch lights, but I finally settled in.
PANSTARRS has faded considerably since I last viewed it in April, and was difficult in binoculars due to its proximity to a bright 7th-magnitude star. I was able to see it better a bit later when it had moved a bit, and at that time I estimated the comet's magnitude at 9.4. In the 10" Dob at 44x, the comet showed a round coma about 4' in diameter with a stellar pseudonucleus offset a bit to the NW of center. A couple of small jets were visible to the SE, the beginning of a fan-shaped tail that stretched for 25-30' in PA 130. Even more striking was the antitail that stretched for at least 1 degree in PA 355. The first 20' or so of the antitail were narrower than the coma and had a higher surface brightness than the other tail; beyond that, the antitail broadened and gradually faded into the sky background. The starfield seemed pretty crowded for this region of the sky.
Naked-eye limiting magnitude was 6.7. The seeing sucked, so I didn't spend much time on Saturn. I glanced at a few showpiece objects before retiring for a quick nap.
Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) graced the morning sky not far from M31. It was quite easy in binoculars; I estimated its magnitude at 8.0. In the 10" Dob at 44x, Lemmon showed a round coma 7' in diameter. The coma was fairly condensed, but lacked a stellar pseudonucleus or any internal structure to speak of. It had a faint cyan tinge. A faint, narrowly fan-shaped tail extended for at least 25' and maybe up to 40' in PA 235. There was a hint of faint linear structures in this tail, as well as a thin northern branch in PA 250 that may have been the ion tail.
Posted 19 June 2013 - 12:58 AM
Very nice sketches and report. Thanks for sharing your views. Striking sketches like yours that depict how beautiful comets can appear in telescopes are better than images IMO. Nice job!
Posted 23 June 2013 - 01:55 AM
Posted 15 July 2013 - 02:10 PM
Posted 18 July 2013 - 12:02 AM
Has anyone viewed Panstarrs recently? Will it be observable with a 14" scope by the end of July? does anyone have access to a star map to show its location?
I viewed both PANSTARRS and Lemmon on July 6th. PANSTARRS still showed a parabolic coma, but I couldn't see much of a tail in my 10" Dob. It is fading pretty rapidly and was about magnitude 10.5 at that time. It will probably be around 11.5 by the end of the month, still within reach of a mid-size scope from a dark site. See the links in John's post for finder charts.
PANSTARRS sketch from July 6: http://skytour.homes...11L4-130706.jpg