Sunday, March 31, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS within 2° of the Andromeda Galaxy this week

I take most of my photos from my apartment courtyard, and since my view to the west is obstructed by the building, I thought I'd already said goodbye to Andromeda for the season. The same goes for C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS, which is fading while rising higher into the NW sky just after sunset. With an obstructed view, PanSTARRS calls for a special trip. And since I've already photographed it twice, I felt content to let it slip out of sight.

Using Stellarium to plan my views of PanSTARRS below Andromeda

That is, until I learned about a sort-of conjunction of the comet with the Andromeda Galaxy (within 2°) over the next week - especially from April 2-3. This event is definitely worth a special trip, and I'm excited to have another go at Andromeda, especially if I can catch it in the same frame as a comet! (See my previous attempt at Andromeda)

Grid lines in Stellarium show that the two objects will be separated by a few degrees relatively low in the NW sky

It's also nice to know that PanSTARRS should be near Andromeda for a few days in a row, which will increase my chances of getting good weather. Although, as of right now, it looks like the weather should cooperate on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights (knock on wood). 

Double clusters between Cassiopeia and Perseus are my backup targets

My backup plan is to shoot a double cluster a little higher in the sky. I'm a little worried Andromeda will be too low to the horizon to get a good shot, or that it won't be dark enough by 9:00pm. If I'm going to make a 30 minute drive out to darker skies, I want to have plenty of targets.

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