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We Saw Comet PANSTARRS!!
22 March 2013

As part of Armagh Observatory’s on-going work with Libraries NI our Director and UK UNAWE Coordinator, Professor Mark Bailey gave an Intergenerational talk in Omagh Library on the evening of March 13th 2013.

35 young children accompanied by their parents and friends listened to the talk on “Bringing ‘Heaven’ Down to Earth” which made reference to the beautiful astronomy posters on display as part of a travelling exhibition around libraries in N Ireland.

The highlight of the evening was that most of the 65-person audience (of whom more than half were children) got the chance of a lifetime to see Comet PANSTARRS through the binoculars and small telescope brought along by Mark.

Just after dusk, in a mostly clear western sky, the delighted audience were able to view the comet from the balcony of the Co. Tyrone library.  While they were waiting they also gained some knowledge on other objects visible to the naked eye such as the Moon, the brilliant planet Jupiter and the stars of the constellation Orion.

Comet PANSTARRS has probably taken 5 to 10 million years to reach our inner solar system on its journey around the Sun, and it is not expected to return for at least another 100,000 years.  It is approximately 20 km in diameter and astronomers have been tracking it since 2011.

It is quite difficult to predict the brightness of a comet in advance of its first visit, however we are hopeful that the other comet, namely C/2012 S1 (ISON), which is expected to be visible in November and December 2013 will be very bright. Further details to follow closer to the time!

Armagh Observatory acknowledges with thanks our partnership with Libraries NI in this poster exhibition and related talks around Northern Ireland, under the umbrella of the DCAL Learning Strategy.





Professor Bailey showing the comet through a telescope
Professor Bailey showing the comet through a telescope
Comet PANSTARRS by Andy McCrea, Irish Astronomical Association
Comet PANSTARRS by Andy McCrea, Irish Astronomical Association
Young Astronomers at the Talk!
Young Astronomers at the Talk!