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Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Seeing Comet C/2014 Q1 from Australia (23-30 July 2015)

The evening sky at 6:30 pm ACST looking west as seen from Adelaide from 22 July to 30 July.  The circles show successive positions of Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS every two days. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent local times. (click on image to embiggen).

Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS is now visible in the evening low in the twilight. It is sporting a nice double tail http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150721.html.

Printable black and white map suitable for use with binoculars, the  circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The time is 18:45 ACST, similar views will be seen at equivalent local times elsewhere in Australia. Click to embiggen and print.

If you try looking an hour after sunset you will see it very low above the horizon. I was only able to make it out at 18:40 ACST (an hour and a 10 minutes after sunset) as a faint blob in binoculars (then I had to come inside for dinner).

However, I had very poor conditions (high humidity, lots of horizon interference and street light interference. My attempt at photography was foiled by low elevation and light interference.

The comet is only visible in binoculars or a telescope, it is currently around magnitude 5.6. However, it looks quite good as a fuzzy ball of light in binoculars under dark skies. Less good under suburban skies but still obsevable as a comet.

On the 23rd and 24th sweeping west of Venus and Jupiter by about a binocular field should bring you to the comet (there are no other bright fuzzy blobs about).

Animation of Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS at 6:30 pm from 22 July to 30 July. Click to embiggen

As the week progresses, the comet rides higher in the darker parts of the sky so you will need to sweep up from Venus (see diagram above), on the 26th and 27th the comet is close to the relative bright star alpha Sextans, mking it easier to spot in binoculars.

However, while the comet moves out the the twilight (theoretically making it easier to see) it also dims. As well increasing Moonlight from the waxing will make it harder to find.

However, the comet is dimming more slowly than expected, so it should remain a good binocular object for those with a clear level horizon for a while.

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Hi Ian
I captured some curious images yesterday afternoon and I'd like to email them to you for your opinion. What's your email address?
Many thanks
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