Comet PANSTARRS is just the latest vistor to our skies, after some exciting and unexpected visitors from space. It was the meteor that hit Russia on the 15th of February that caused panic, injuries, and so much damage to buildings. Then on the evening of that same day an olympic swimming pool size asteroid called 2012 DA14 skimmed Earth, actually passing inside the orbit of TV satellites at 17,100 miles above your head. Now it’s the turn of a real nice naked eye comet called Comet PANSTARRS to grace your skies. PANSTARRS is a non periodic comet discovered in June 2011 with the full name of C/2011
L4 (PANSTARRS) named after the telescopic survey, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System that spotted it coming our way. Non periodic means it is this comets first passage through the solar system.
That new object in the March skies at dusk with the faint tail has probably taken millions of years to get here. It has journeyed from the huge spherical cloud of icy objects known as the Oort cloud, that lies roughly 1 light year from the Sun. The Oort cloud has never been seen directly but is theorised to exist. Comets such as Comet PANSTARRS originated as one of the billions of icy objects in the Oort cloud. To start a comet on its travels it would get a slight kick, nudge, or influence from something, maybe a passing star, that then sends it on a journey out of the Oort cloud and towards the inner solar system. If it was a comet, one of these unfortunate brushes or kicks from something nearby might have been the death knell for the dinosaurs, sending the object to collide with the ancient Earth. The human race is safe with Comet PANSTARRS however, as its first passage through the solar system is well known.
Comets and cats are very unpredictable, and they both have tails. This means both comets and cats will do exactly what they like, and you can never be certain they’re going to perform. The predicted spectacular comet can easily break apart before they get a chance to shine in our skies, and there are well known past examples of this. Comet PANSTARRS however is shining, it’s shining good, and here are some fantastic images taken from people around the world…
The image above was taken on March the 2nd by Chris Samuel using his Nikon D90 over Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia in PANSTARRS visit to the southern hemisphere. The comet looks amazing in this shot framed by the trees and house lights to give it perspective.
This very nice image, ‘PanStarrs and Luna’ by Glenn Marsch, was taken using a Sony DSC-H50 camera. I always like a low crescent Moon with a bright planet such as Venus or Jupiter at dusk or dawn, but this shot has a comet thrown in. The black trees set against the glow of dusk, the comet, and even Earthshine too is a great photo by Glenn.
This photo above by Luis Argerich shows the comet on March the 2nd, from San A. de Areco, Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is set against an amazing twilight that looks like it’s on fire. You have to be eagle eyed to see Comet PANSTARRS though, it is near the top of the photo two thirds along.
Here’s another fantastic sky scape above from Luis Argerich with a comet thrown in. Comet PANSTARRS is visible to the lower right just above the glow of the twilight, the icy traveller is set against the star studded sky of Argentina.
The photo above by Seabird NZ is a spectacular shot of Comet PANSTARRS, taken on March the 5th from Allandale, Canterbury, New Zealand. It is a stack of 5 images that really bring out that impressive tail being blown by the solar wind, set against bright stars.
So there’s some fantastic images of this comet, and the even more incredible story of how it came to your sky.
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