Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Seeing Comet C/2013 X1 and its Outburst in Australia
Comet P/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) is reported to be in outburst at magnitude 8.1 or brighter (there have been reports in the high 7's but I haven't seen them directly). This makes the comet potentially visible in binoculars, and rather obvious in telescopes.
Unfortunately for Australians the comet is currently in the Great Square of Pegasus, forming a triangle with Gamma and Chi Pegasi. This means that it is very low to the horizon, and can only be seen for a short time after astronomical twilight in the evening before it becomes too low.
Southern Australia has the worst view, with the comet only 10 degrees or a little bit more above the horizon, where horizon murk will make it harder to see.
Northern Australia has the best views with the comet 20 degrees above the north-west horizon at the latitude of Brisbane at astronomical twilight, and 41 degrees above the north-west horizon at the latitude of Darwin at astronomical twilight.