Comet PanSTARRS Is Tricky But Worth The Effort

There’s a comet in our skies this week! With Comet PanSTARRS being so close to the Sun and therefore so low to the horizon, seeing this first major comet of the year is tricky! The comet is viewable about a half hour to an hour after sunset, but don’t expect it to leap out at you. You’ll have to look hard for it. With the clear skies last night, I tried to see if I could spot the comet without aid, and it was tough. I couldn’t see it at all at first, not until the skies darkened considerably. I had to wait until a little before 8pm as Orion was starting to become visible before I could find the comet. Even then, I had to look very closely at the sky maps published at Sky & Telescope’s website to make sure I was looking in the right spot. Binoculars really helped. My 200-500mm zoom lens helped more! I finally did get an image of Comet PanSTARRS along side the Moon.

The image I captured was with my Nikon D7000 (a 1.5x crop sensor) with a focal length of 200mm (300mm 35mm equivalent) at f/5.6, a shutter speed of 2 seconds, and at ISO 800. I did some noise reduction in Photoshop, but didn’t do anything else to the image. I like how the night side of the Moon is visible when it’s just an ultra thin crescent like this.

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