Celestial visitor spotted recently

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astroAfter clouds prevented  a local viewing of Comet  PANSTARRS on Sunday and  Monday night, and then rain  on Tuesday night, a small  contingent of stargazers (Tina  Huestis, Glen Huestis, Tom  Thibault, Rebecca Tremblay)  chose an elevated location with  a good unobstructed view to the  west and finally observed this  celestial visitor on Wednesday  evening, March 13.

We set up even before the  sun set (at 6:50 pm) so we  would be ready to train our  binoculars and telescopes on  this dirty snowball from the  Oort cloud at the edge of our  solar system. Three other guests  joined us during our observing  session.

Based on reports from other  locations, we knew it was going  to be a challenge to find. Most  observers stated they could not  see it with their naked-eye. We  didn’t either. We kept sweeping  with binoculars and Tom spotted  it first around 7:20pm. Then  each of us finally caught sight of  it in binoculars.

Then I was able to sweep the  general area of the sky with my  4.25-inch reflector under low  magnification and quickly got it  into view. WOW! A fairly bright  head with a distinct fan-shaped  tail. Even once we knew where  to look for it we still couldn’t  see it with the naked-eye. And  even when twilight was fading  we still couldn’t see it without  at least using binoculars.

We watched the comet until  it sank out of view behind the  tree-line to the west.

The attached image I managed  to take was with Tom›s  camera.

Hopefully it will be clear  over the next few nights to  continue our observations of  Comet PANSTARRS.

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