Physics Photo of the Week

March 15, 2013

C/2011 L4 (Comet PanSTARRS) and the Moon
The much-hyped major comet (C/2011 L4 Pan STARRS) made its first WWC apearance during exceptionally clear skies on Tuesday, March 12.  This is the first "naked-eye" comet since Comet Holmes several years ago.  This was photographed at 8:15 pm EDT 45 minutes after sunset when the sky was still quite bright.  However the Moon and comet gradually became visible as the sky slowly darkened as the Sun continued dropping lower below the horizon.  The comet should be viewable at least through Spring Break.  Bring binoculars (and a digital camera and tripod if available) to any location that has a clear view of the western horizon.  The comet will become higher and more easily seen in a darker sky, but the comet sets about 1 hour after sunset.  The moon will also become higher and brighter in the coming days.

This was photographed from Night Pasture overlooking the WWC white barn.  The camera used a zoom lens set at 170 mm focal length - a moderate zoom factor.  The image at right is zoomed-in on the comet to magnify the comet.

Due to Spring Break at Warren Wilson College, there will be no Physics Photo of the Week for March 22.  The next Physics Photo of the Week will be published on March 29, 2013. 

Physics Photo of the Week is published weekly during the academic year on Fridays by the Warren Wilson College Physics Department. These photos feature interesting phenomena in the world around us.  Students, faculty, and others are invited to submit digital (or film) photographs for publication and explanation. Atmospheric phenomena are especially welcome. Please send any photos to

All photos and discussions are copyright by Donald Collins or by the person credited for the photo and/or discussion.  These photos and discussions may be used for private individual use or educational use.  Any commercial use without written permission of the photoprovider is forbidden.

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