Comet captured making turn in Arkansas skies

© Dr. Clay Sherrod

MORRILTON (Petit Jean Country Headlight) - The Comet PANSTARRS is now high overhead near the North Star for Arkansas viewers.

P. Clay Sherrod of Petit Jean Mountain used the Arkansas Sky Observatories' wide field astrographic telescope to capture the images of the comet seen below. The telescope has a field of view wide enough that two full moons would fit side by side in the area seen in each photo.

The first was recorded June 4 through thin clouds and is a composite of two 90 second images taken one after the other to reduce the effects of light pollution over Petit Jean Mountain. The second photo was taken June 6.

Looking at both photos, you can see that the tail is changing directions, with the tail on June 6 aimed exactly due north toward the North Star.

PANSTARRS was discovered in 2011 and in January 2013, it passed closer to Earth than any other comet in recent years. It is proving to be testing ground for stargazers ahead of the "Christmas Comet," Comet ISON, which will pass so close to Earth in late November and throughout December that it will be visible to the naked eye at night at Christmastime and may even be visible during daylight.

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