Comet PanSTARRS and the Andromeda Galaxy
Comet PanSTARRS is fading, but it is not gone yet. In fact it is better placed for northern hemisphere observers. It appears higher in the sky and is visible longer after sunset so you can see it in a darker sky. In fact, the farther north you are the better…Tucson is a little farther south than the best seats.
And this week PanSTARRS is passing near the Andromeda Galaxy. The closest approach is Thursday, but I went out to see them tonight. They are low in the sky and I had to wait for it to get dark. There was a pretty narrow window of opportunity…I had to wait for it to get dark enough to see them but then they were low in the sky and about to set.
But see them I did! I drove out to Saguaro National Park West. I did this so I wouldn’t have to try and spot them through the city lights…basically put Tucson behind me. They were not too difficult in 8×42 binoculars. Both were visible in the same field of view. And I got a few pics of them. Pics were also difficult…if the exposure was too long, the sky was overexposed. Too short of an exposure and they wouldn’t show up at all.
In this first picture, the trail made by the plane points to a small fuzzy blob. That fuzzy blob is PanSTARRS. Now look almost directly above the comet for another fuzzy blob. That fuzzy blob is the Andromeda Galaxy.
That picture is cropped. Here is a wider shot of the same image.
Finally, one more with the comet just about to set over the mountain. Oddly enough, this time the plane trail points toward the Andromeda Galaxy!
The next few nights you can watch PanSTARRS pass by the Andromeda Galaxy. You will probably need a pair of binoculars to see them. Make sure you have a clear western horizon…preferably without city lights to your west.
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