Conjunction of the crescent Moon & Comet Pan-STARRS Just After Sunset!
Mother Nature has given us a treat after a rainy and cool start to the work week. Drier and cooler air has been filtering into the Tennessee Valley, clearing the sky overnight and making for a gorgeous mostly sunny day across the area, just in time for perfect viewing conditions of the conjunction of the crescent Moon and Comet Pan-STARRS this evening. Comet Pan-STARRS has been visible, even to the naked eye across the sky in the northern hemisphere just after sunset the past few evenings, thanks to cloudy conditions, it has been to difficult to view across the Tennessee Valley. The opportunity to be able to see a comet with the naked eye is a rare event and according to NASA, it only occurs every 5-10 years. Comet Pan-STARRS was discovered in June 2011 and has been making its way through the inner solar system and only recently has been visible in the northern hemisphere. Below is an image of Comet Pan-STARRS from western Austraila.
What makes the event even more rare, is the conjunction of Comet Pan-STARRS with the crescent Moon, making for a stunning photo opportunity. Sunset is at 6:52 pm this evening and best viewing will be through about 30 to 60 minutes after sunset. Look for the crescent Moon and you should see Comet Pan-STARRS only a few degrees to the left of the Moon.
Below is the sky map for viewing this evening, you will need to look low towards the western horizon.
For optimal viewing, you want an unobstructed view, away from any city lights. Monte Sano, Green Mountain and the higher elevations of Northeast Alabama and southern middle Tennessee will be the best places to view the Moon and Comet Pan-STARRS, within 30 minutes after sunset this evening.
Comet Pan-STARRS will continue to be visible over the coming days, but will gradually become more dim and less visible to the naked eye. By month’s end, it will be hard to see the comet, even with the aid of a small telescope. Below is a map courtesy of NASA showing the progression of Comet Pan-STARRS in the evening sky over the next couple of weeks.
Happy sky watching!:)
– Jennifer Watson
Facebook: Jennifer Watson WHNT