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Comet Pan-STARRS

This is an image of Comet Pan-STARRS captured from the Lake Murray Dam on March 13th, 2013. Pan-STARRS is one of two comets that will be visible to the naked eye this year. Named after the telescope which discovered it in 2011, Pan-STARRS is making its first trip around the sun and based on orbital calculations, it won’t return for another 106,000 years.

Comets are large chucks of ice and dust which originate in the Oort cloud of the outer solar system. When comets approach the sun, solar radiation and wind vaporize the ices which form an atmosphere, or coma, around the comet and produce its tail, which always points away from the sun. A secondary dust tail may also form and point in a different direction and curve along the comet’s orbit. (Image credit: Alex Mowery)

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Live View from the Telescope!

We will broadcast live video from one of our telescopes during our public observing hours. Simply press the large play button in the middle of the viewer to begin. Unfortunately, to keep the broadcast free, Ustream will play a short advertisement (30 seconds or less) before the broadcast begins. Please note that image quality is highly dependent on atmospheric conditions, which will vary from night to night. Enjoy!

Note: You may notice that the image "wiggles" or appears wavy at times. This is caused by wind and temperature differentials in Earth's atmosphere and is known as atmospheric turbulence.


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