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Capturing a comet's moment
Comet PanSTARRS will begin to fade away over the next two weeks.
Courtesy of Andrew Bloxom
Andrew Bloxom, a doctoral candidate at Virginia Tech, photographed Comet PanSTARRS from atop the municipal golf course in Blacksburg, overlooking the college town.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
PanSTARRS has proven to be less of a sight than first estimated. As it began to move away from the sun after swinging around it on March 10, the comet did not brighten significantly. The primordial crust of the comet’s nucleus did not significantly sizzle then evaporate under the intense solar heat, and, consequently, a lengthy, bright tail did not form. A short one did form, however, making the comet an interesting sight for those skywatchers who used binoculars to pick it out in the bright western twilight.
Over the next two weeks, PanSTARRS moves from appearing very low in the west 45 minutes after sunset to lying higher in the northwest. Common binoculars are helpful in finding the comet sporting its short, glowing tail
105 million miles away. Because it is traveling away from both the sun and the Earth, PanSTARRS fades from view before the end of March.
John Goss writes a monthly column about astronomy for The Roanoke Times.
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