Tale of two comets

by Tanya
Publish date
28 February 2013
Comments (2)

It’s quite rare for two comets to be found in the same patch of sky, but right now Comets Lemmon and PANSTARRS are both in the south. Unfortunately they are very faint, and even from a lovely dark sky, they are only just barely visible. But they are putting on a show for those with binoculars or a small telescope.

During February, astro-photographer, Alex Cherney captured the two comets from the Mornington Penisula. He has also produced a wonderful time-lapse video of the comets together in the sky. You can check it out on the Terrastro blog.

Comets Lemmon and PANSTARRS During February Comets Lemmon and PANSTARRS have travelled across the southern sky.
Image: Alex Cherney
Source: http://www.terrastro.com/

There’s a chance that the comets may brighten a little as they continue to head towards the Sun, but you never can tell with comets. After all, comets are called ‘dirty snowballs’ and how brilliantly (or disappointingly!) they will melt is hard to predict.

Comet PANSTARRS is currently the brighter of the two and it reaches perihelion (closest to the Sun) on the 10th March. The problem for us, is that we can only see the comet in the twilight sky and after perihelion it will move too far north for us to see it at all. However, northern hemisphere observers are hopeful that the comet might be fairly easy to see once it travels north.

Comet Lemmon can be found low in the south-west at sunset or low in the south-east before sunrise. It will reach perihelion on the 24th March, and photographs of the comet have shown it to have an eerie greenish glow. The comet contains carbon (or C2 gas) and the Sun is making the gas fluoresce and turning it green.

9pm, 28 February For the next couple of days, Comets Lemmon and PANSTARRS can be found in the south. This chart is for Melbourne at 9pm, 28 February.
Source: Museum Victoria

Comments (2)

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Mike Youlden 1 March, 2013 17:36
Thanks so much for us novice with your easy to follow instructions on where to find objects
Clint 5 March, 2013 18:24
Thanks Tanya...! Cheers Clint RAS-ASV Narre Warren South
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.