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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:39 am 
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Location: Maple Shade, NJ
I'm surprised that I haven't seen any reports about observing comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) on this board. I've now spotted it on five different evenings starting a week ago. They were:

March 09, Saturday, East Point, NJ
March 12, Tuesday, East Point, NJ
March 13, Wednesday, Philadelphia, PA
March 14, Thursday, Delran, NJ
March 15, Friday, Cherry Hill, NJ

In all cases, Comet Pan-STARRS was found and observed with binoculars, and on the 14th, I also got a look with my 80 mm apo refractor. Oddly, the best view so far was on the 13th with 10x42 binoculars from Winter Street, next to the Franklin Institute in center-city Philadelphia, when the comet was about 10 degrees directly below the crescent moon (the transparency was excellent in that direction at the time; on the other nights except the 14th, it was cloudy/murky along the horizon). I have yet to see it with my unaided eyes.

On the 12th, I captured this image of the comet next to the 28-hour-old crescent moon from East Point, overlooking the Delaware Bay, at 7:54 pm EDT:

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Click here for a larger version.

It can be difficult to find in the evening twilight (solar elongation is still less then 20 degrees) and it's not exactly brilliant against the relatively bright background, but it does have a classic comet shape with a well-condensed head and a short, but distinct tail. Those expecting a "Great" comet might be disappointed, but compared to most of the comets I see, this one is pretty good (bear in mind that I thought comet 168P/Hergenrother was exciting when it had an outburst to magnitude 9 last fall).

It's certainly worth taking a look when the weather permits.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:51 am 
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Does anyone know a good place to view the western horizon around here? I'm thinking maybe the west coasts of Barnegat Peninsula or Long Beach Island, looking west over Barnegat Bay. Here are a couple of references on this comet.

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/201 ... ough-space

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:13 pm 
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Location: Barnegat, NJ
I spotted Panstarrs with my 15x75 Bino's but it was also in the low murky horizon on a damp evening. I drove down rt. 554 in Barnegat toward rt 72 west, pulled over on a hill with a nice shot of the western sky over the Coyle Field area. Surprisingly it was not as low as I thought. I probably could have located it from my yard with a smaller viewing window though.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:57 pm 
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Matt,
It's getting higher in the sky. Unfortunately, also dimmer. Did you mount your binoculars?

I'm going to try Bamber Lake's east shore tomorrow, if the weather permits. It's supposed to be "mostly clear" 45 minutes after sunset tomorrow (Tuesday March 19). Sunset is at 7:08 pm.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:41 am 
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I saw the comet again Tuesday evening (March 19th) with handheld 16x70 binoculars. It shows well enough, but I agree that it's dimming a little compared to last week. The gain in altitude does not seem to be entirely compensating for the post-perihelion loss of intrinsic brightness (let alone the hoped-for, short-term brightening from the increased altitude). Here's a snapshot from yesterday:

http://sjastro.org/C-2011-L4_3-19-2013.htm

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:24 pm 
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I found Comet PANSTARRS this evening (March 22) using 15 x 45 image-stabilized binoculars. The view was from a large field on Route 530 in Manchester, NJ. The comet surprised me. It was brighter and had a distinct tail. Much lower in the sky than I thought and not directly west but between west and northwest. I'm fortunate that this field has such a low horizon.

In between views of the comet, a huge bolide breaking up into pieces streaked across the sky traveling in an east-southeast direction. It really scared me because it was so bright and seemed so close. I had never seen anything like this before.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:13 am 
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I too saw Comet Pan-STARRS this evening (March 22) from the local baseball field complex, initially with 16x70 binoculars and then with my 80 mm apo refractor (at 12, 19 and 30x). The tail showed best in the binoculars, and in the scope, the head looked quite condensed. Compared to magnitude 2.0 Alpheratz (Alpha Andromedae) that was 8 degrees to the right of it, the head of the comet looked dimmer and yellowish.

I was also able to find M31 in the binoculars. Even though it was higher in the sky (at 8:15 pm, about 20 deg altitude vs. 7.5 deg altitude for the comet), M31 was much dimmer than the head area, more like the visible part of the faint tail. Of course, my observing location in Maple Shade, NJ (8 miles from center-city Phildelphia), is not ideal for looking at nebulosity (e.g., M31 or the comet's tail).

I missed the fireball. I got to the baseball field about 8:05 pm, and apparently, the fireball was around 7:50 to 8 pm. The web is buzzing about it, and the American Meteor Society's Fireball Log has already colllected several hunderd reports (far more than usual -- I guess it was in the right direction at the right time for many comet spotters, in addition to the usual random sightings). You should file a report too:

http://www.amsmeteors.org/members/fireball/report-a-fireball

Here are the pending reports already filed:

http://www.amsmeteors.org/members/fireball/browse_reports?report_status=pending

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:25 am 
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Joe,

Yes, the position of the comet couldn't have been better for allowing me to see this huge fireball.

I submitted my report. It was fun and educational. Thanks.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 4:47 pm 
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Matthew M:

I saw the meteor but I had a limited view. I went out the back of the house to see if the sky was clear and saw the meteor. I had a limited view because the roof of the house blocked my view. It was very bright and made the NBC morning news.

Vic Palmieri


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 9:06 pm 
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Vic,
Thanks for the tip. This must be it:

http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2013 ... amble?lite

This is my most memorable astronomical sighting, surpassing a full solar eclipse.

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