Sunday, May 11, 2014

C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS

Do you think it means anything? :)
Well yes, that is the way astronomers calls comets. First letter indicates if comet is periodic (P) or not (C). Second part is the year the comet has been spotted. And last part is the sequence number - the letter indicates the discovery month. There letters that may appear there are A to H and J to Y. Each month is covered by two letters, so January comets are A or B, and December comets are X or Y. So C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS means 'non periodic comet discovered in year 2012, in second half of May'. And PANSTARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System - the telescope that has been used to discover this comet (and many others as well).
This comet is still approaching to the Earth and Sun - at the picture it is about 200 mln km from us and about 300 mln km from the Sun. It will reach the closest approach to the Sun on 27 August 2014 at a distance of 1.05 AU (157 mln km). Currently it is visible from northern hemisphere using a binoculars, and probably even at maximum brightness you will still need a binoculars to spot it. You can find ephemeris and finder charts for the current comets at http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ page.
The second picture is BW image inverted and processed, so you can see the second comet tail as a faint smudge to the bottom and left.
The thick and short one is dust tail. The faint tail is gas tail. 

Clear skies!

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