Tonight, April 1, we enjoyed the rare conjunction of a comet with a galaxy.
This is Comet PANSTARRS below the Andromeda Galaxy, a.k.a. M31. The two objects were less than a binocular field apart – 4 degrees – on the sky. But in real space they were separated by millions of light years. The comet was 192 million kilometres from Earth tonight and receding. But that’s a stone’s throw compared to the 2.5 million light year distance of the Andromeda Galaxy. Light was taking a mere 10 minutes to get to us from the comet, but the light from Andromeda was 2.5 million years old.
And yet, the two objects looked similar in brightness and shape to the binocular-aided eye.
I caught the two just above the horizon as they were dipping into haze and trees. The circumstances didn’t make for a technically great photo but with PANSTARRS we’ve all had to shoot despite the conditions and hope for the best.
With worsening weather prospects for the next week I suspect this will be my last look at PANSTARRS for a while.
– Alan, April 1, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer