This was the night for Comet PANSTARRS! How often do we get to see a view like this, with a comet sitting beside a thin crescent Moon. Spectacular!
Again tonight, about a dozen visiting and resident Canadians gathered for a roadside star party north of Rodeo, New Mexico, to view the comet and Moon setting together over the Chiricahua Mountains. It was a stunning sight and made for a picture postcard image. The two set almost simultaneously, with the tail of the comet and “dark side of the Moon” lit by Earthshine the last to disappear behind notches in the mountain ridge.
And tonight, with the comet higher, it was visible to the naked eye for the first time, but only just – the sighting was made easier because you knew exactly where to look.
The Moon was just 3o+ hours old, so appeared as a very thin crescent. The entire disk of the Moon was visible, the rest lit by Earthshine, sunlight reflected off the Earth. In the clear New Mexico air, the Earthshine was easy to see even in the bright twilight. But adding in the comet made for a once-a-lifetime view.
As soon as they set together, we all cheered and applauded, almost like at an eclipse. It was a memorable night, the kind you always hope for from a comet. PANSTARRS performed tonight!
– Alan, March 12, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer