Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to spot Comet PanSTARRS in Singapore

Despite being a naked eye object, Comet PanSTARRS is a challenging comet to spot for us in Singapore. Officially it's around magnitude 1 to 2 now, pretty bright for a comet, but it is near to the horizon so you need the help of a pair of binoculars to spot it. The comet will look like a fuzzy point of light. You don't get to see its short tail unless you use a telescope or via astrophotography.

Another way to spot Comet PanSTARRS is to use your digital camera. Point it to the western horizon, set your ISO to about 400 or more, use a 50mm lens and snap a pic of about 4 to 5 secs long. Remember to use a tripod and you need an unobstructed view of the western horizon. The comet, if it is not covered by the smog/haze/clouds, should appear in your photograph.

You can use the map above as a guide. The map is for Singapore observers facing the western sky at 7.45pm. The crescent moon on the map is for March 14. The moon will be higher in the sky after each day. The comet will be visible for about 15 minutes before it sets and you have until maybe 18th March to spot it before it gets too low for us in Singapore. Good luck and clear skies.

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