Comet Update: Sighting Still Possible in Oregon, on Coast, if Weather Improves
(Portland, Oregon) – Last weekend some people got lucky, according to OMSI planetarium manager Jim Todd. And while this weekend doesn't hold much promise for hunters of the comet PANSTARRS in Oregon because of weather, there is still time – and that could mean good news for budding astronomers on the coast. (Above: Close-up of comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. Image credit: Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory)
“Some folks were able to view the comet around 6:15 pm on Saturday, March 9, very low above the southwestern horizon,” Todd said. “Unfortunately I was at an indoor event that prevented me to observe the comet. The weather is not looking very promising for this week to see the comet at its best and brightest.”
However, Todd said the good news for the comet PANSTARRS is that it can be in North America for the next few weeks. In fact, once the weather clears up, you may be able to see it with the naked eye, but especially with a binoculars during clear skies.
If conditions are right, some of your best chances to spot it will be on the Oregon coast, however, according to Todd's recipe for comet sighting. It will be low in the western horizon, so a clear, cloudless dusk at the beach will likely yield you better results than inland in Portland or Eugene.
“The bad news is that it is really low and requires very good sky transparency near the horizon,” Todd said. “I wouldn't worry about getting to a dark sky site. The light pollution caused by the twilight is more likely to interfere than streetlights. Dry, clear air with no clouds and no city smog or other pollution near the horizon is far more critical to getting a good view. Best to find the lowest western horizon possible and start looking with binoculars, the second that the limb of the Sun dips below the horizon. With luck, one might get a good half hour of viewing before it dips into the atmospheric haze of the near horizon.”
Weather on the Oregon coast or does not look like it will cooperate much in the next week, according to most weather forecasts. Or much of western Oregon, for that matter. This could change, however, as the coastal region is often quite unpredictable when compared to inland weather.
Todd said the latest news from Comet Pan-STARRS is that it has survived its close encounter with the sun. NASA spacecrafts have beamed back some spectacular images of a large, expanded tail.
More about Oregon coast science and astronomy here, or keep looking below.
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