Comet visible after sunsetMarch 12th, 2013 at 4:03 pm by Jim Spencer under Weather
For North America, March 12 presents a golden opportunity to catch a young moon – and possibly a comet. At northerly latitudes in the Eastern Hemisphere – eastern Europe and Asia – you may have to wait until tomorrow, March 13, to catch the waxing crescent moon. But don’t let that stop you from seeking out Comet PANSTARRS. Start your search 45 minutes or so after sunset.
As viewed from North America, islands of the North Pacific (Hawaii) and possibly northwestern Europe, you might – or might not – spot Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) fairly close to the lunar crescent tonight. If you have binoculars, bring them along for they’ll help you to see the moon and Comet PANSTARRS in the glare of evening twilight.
People in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres have now spotted the comet, but whether you will or not depends in part on the quality of your western sky after sunset. It’s worth a try, for sure. Keep in mind that the moon and Comet PANSTARRS might not be as obvious in the real sky as on our sky chart. Also remember they will be low in the west as soon as the sun goes down. So get out there and see them before they follow the sun below the western horizon!
Photo of Comet PANSTARRS taken after sunset in Oklahoma on March 11, 2013, by EarthSky facebook friend MIke O’Neal.Thank you, Mike! Click here for another view. See our facebook page for more fine comet photos.
As seen from much of North America, tonight’s waxing crescent moon will be less than 30 hours old. In other words, the moon will make its first appearance in the March evening sky less than 30 hours after the moon turned new on March 11. You’ll need a level horizon and crystal-clear skies to see the very thin lunar crescent in the west after sunset. If you spot it, look for the comet nearby.
This little moon will be less than 2% illuminated in sunshine – a fragile and beautiful sight reminiscent of all new beginnings. And the comet … well, it’ll be a comet! It has a fan-shaped tail, pointing away from the sun.
Beset by light pollution? Don’t let that stop you. EarthSky facebook friend Ricky M. Rodriguez couldn’t see the comet with the unaided eye in the Dallas metropolitan area on March 11, 2013, but managed to catch Comet PANSTARRS with the camera anyway. Click here for a larger view and a tip or two from Ricky. Thank you for the cool photo, Ricky!
There’s a wonderful consolation prize, should you not catch the young moon and/or the comet after sunset. The dazzling planet Jupiter will appear high in the southern sky at dusk and nightfall. (From the Southern Hemisphere, Jupiter will appear in the northern sky.) Jupiter shines in front of the constellation Taurus the Bull, and they’ll be out together till probably past your bedtime.
Comet Panstarrs as seen from Burns Beach in Perth, Western Australia, about one hour after sunset on March 4, 2013. Photo by EarthSky facebook friend Michael Goh. Thank you, Michael! Click here for a larger photo
But be a sport. Try to catch tonight’s thin waxing crescent moon near Comet PANSTARRS as dusk gives way to nightfall. This month’s new moon fell on March 11, at 19:51 (7:51 p.m.) Universal Time. By U.S. clocks, that was at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Time, 2:51 p.m. Central Time, 1:51 p.m. Mountain Time, and 12:51 p.m. Pacific Time on March 11.
If you have binoculars, have them handy as you seek the young moon and Comet PANSTARRS near the sunset point on the horizon on March 12, starting around 45 minutes after sunset. Then, after the moon sets and evening twilight ends, try to catch the zodiacal light after dark (80 to 120 minutes after sunset)!
Bottom line: Watch for the young crescent moon and Comet PANSTARRS low in the west after sunset on March 12, 2013. Awesome photo opportunity.