C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)

Since I started out i amateur astronomy 2008 I have observed 15 comets. Without doubt the most memorable of these was comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS). It was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) on Hawaii in June 2011 and reached perihelion i March 2013.

After the passage, as the comet rose from below the western horizon, I made numerous sketches. The comet peaked at magnitude +1, making it an easy catch. It also spawned a beautiful tail.

Beneath are some of my sketches. I used both my dobsonians and a number of different eyepieces for the observations, so please note that the field of view (FOV) varies substantially between the sketches. Also note that during the first and the last observations, the comet hoovered just a few degrees above the horizon making the observations difficult and reducing the comets appearance.

14 mars
Sketched on 14 March, UT 18:30, using a Sky-Watcher 10″ and a Baader Asperic 31 mm (40x, FOV ca 100′).
17 mars
Sketched on 17 March, UT 19:00, using a Sky-Watcher 10″ and a Baader Hyperion 13 mm (92x, FOV ca 40′).

 

24 mars
Sketched on 24 March, UT 19:15, using a SkyWatcher 10″ and a Baader Hyperion 24 mm (50x, FOV ca 80′).
31 mars
Sketched on 31 March, UT 21:00 using a GSO 16″ and a Baader Aspheric 31 mm (58x, FOV ca 70′).

 

3 april
Sketched on 3 April, UT 19:50, using GSO 16″ and Baader Apheric 31 mm (58x, FOV a 70′).
5 april
Sketched on 5 April, UT 21:30, using a GSO 16″ and a Baader Hyperion 17 mm (106x, FOV ca 40′).

 

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C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)

Discovered by Terry Lovejoy on 17 August 2014, comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) put on quite some show this spring. I had the opportunity to observe it on several occasions, using my 7×50 binos for the reports to COBS, and my scopes for the sketches.

The first sketch was made on 11 January. At the time the comet was just about visible naked eye and with the binos I estimated the magnitude to 4.5. There was no sign of the tail in the binos, but with the 16″ I saw hints of it. The tail was to elusive to put down in the sketch, so I just indicated my impressions with some dashes. When I later checked the observation at the laptop, it turned out that I had been spot on.

11 jan
Sketched 11 January 2015, UT 19:00 , using GSO 16″, Baader Asperic 31 mm (FOV 74′). North is up.

The second sketch was made two days later on 13 January. The comet now seemed considerably brighter, and with the binos I estimated the magnitude to 3.8. The tail was a difficult catch with the binos (at ZLM 5.5), but I eventually put it down as 1°. Due to it’s position in the local sky, I had to use the more portable 10″ for the sketch. In the eyepiece the coma was bright and very pronounced. Even the tail popped out nicely from the background. I also suspected two secondary streams of the tail, marked by the dashes to the left, but I am not sure that they were genuine. As it turned out this became my best view of the comet.

13 jan
Sketched 13 January 2015, UT 18:30, using SkyWatcher 10″, Baader Hyperion 24 mm (FOV 81′). North is up.

During the second half of January I made a couple of observations with the binos, but I didn’t sketch it again until 9 February. Even if the comet now had dimmed considerably (4.8) it still stood out quite well. At the time the tail didn’t show in the binos, but was not to difficult to catch in the big scope.

9 feb
Sketched 9 February 2015, UT 21:00, using GSO 16″, Baader Aspheric 31 mm (FOV 74′). North is up.

The last sketch was made under substandard skies on 14 February. Now the comet had faded to magnitude 5.5. Due to some haze the tail was very difficult to observe. It seemed to have a more fan-like shape than during previous observations, but that might have been the effect of the poor sky quality (or faint field stars playing a trick on me).

14 feb
Sketched 14 February 2015, UT 20:15, using GSO 16″, Baader Asperic 31 mm (FOV 74′). North is up.

All in all I found C/2014 Q2 an entertaining companion during the few months I observed it. Not as forgiving as for example comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) of 2012, but still well worth the effort.