Solar System  Back to Photo Gallery - Solar System
 Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) 

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is a non-periodic comet discovered in June 2011 that became visible to the naked eye when it was near perihelion in March 2013. The comet was discovered using the Pan-STARRS telescope located near the summit of Haleakalā, on the island of Maui in Hawaii (U.S.). Comet C/2011 L4 was still 7.9 AU from the Sun with an apparent magnitude of 19 when it was discovered in June 2011.By early May 2012, the comet had brightened to magnitude 13.5,and could be seen visually when using a large amateur telescope from a dark site. As of October 2012, the coma (expanding tenuous dust atmosphere) was estimated to be about 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) in diameter. The comet was spotted without optical aid on 7 February 2013 at a magnitude of 6. Comet PANSTARRS was visible from both hemispheres in the first weeks of March, and passed closest to Earth on 5 March 2013 at a distance of 1.09 AU. It came to perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 10 March 2013. Original estimates predicted the comet would brighten to roughly apparent magnitude 0 (roughly the brightness of Alpha Centauri A or Vega). An estimate in October 2012 predicted the comet might brighten to magnitude −4 (roughly equivalent to Venus). In January 2013 there was a noticeable brightening slowdown that suggested the comet may only brighten to magnitude +1. During February the brightness curve showed a further slowdown suggesting a perihelion magnitude of around +2. However, a study using the secular light curve indicates that the comet had a "slowdown event" when it was 3.6 AU from the Sun at a magnitude 5.6. The brightness increase rate decreased and the estimated magnitude at perihelion was predicted as +3.5. Comet Halley would be magnitude −1.0 at the same perihelion distance. The same study concluded that the comet is very young and belongs to the class of "baby comets" (i.e. those with a photometric age of less than 4 comet years). When the comet reached perihelion in March 2013, the actual peak magnitude turned out to be around +1, as estimated by various observers all over the planet. However, the low altitude of the comet over the horizon made these estimates difficult and subject to significant uncertainties, both because of the lack of suitable reference stars in the area and the need for differential atmospheric extinction corrections. As of mid-March 2013, due the brightness of twilight and low elevation in the sky, the comet was best seen in binoculars about 40 minutes after sunset. On 17/18 March, the comet was near the magnitude 2.8 star Algenib (Gamma Pegasi). On 22 April it was near Beta Cassiopeiae. On 12–14 May it will be near Gamma Cephei. The comet will continue moving North until 28 May. Comet C/2011 L4 probably took millions of years to come from the Oort cloud. After leaving the planetary region of the Solar System, the post-perihelion orbital period (epoch 2050) is estimated to be roughly 106000 years. Dust and gas production suggests the comet nucleus is roughly 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) in diameter. [Text from Wikipedia]

Optics: Takahashi FSQ-106EDXIII F/3.6 383mm. - APO Refractor
Mount: AP Mach1 GTO
Camera: Canon 5D MkII - Baader Mod
Filters: OSC
Guiding Systems: Tecnosky 60/228 Guide Scope- SX Lodestar
Dates/Times: 30 May 2013
Location: Pragelato - Turin - Italy
Exposure Details: OSC => 10 = > (10x1) ISO 800 [num x minutes]
Cooling Details: Ambient 12°C
Acquisition: BackyardEOS, TheSkyX
Processing: CCDStack2+, PixInsight, PS CS5
Mean FWHM: 3.12
SQM-L: 20.15