COMET PAN-STARRS UPDATE: As it emerges from the glare of the evening sun, Comet Pan-STARRS is becoming even more photogenic. Last night, March 17th, Alan Dyer caught it setting behind the Very Large Array, a radio telescope in Socorro, New Mexico:
Movie-goers will remember seeing the VLA in Carl Sagan’s movie Contact starring Jodie Foster. Among astronomers, the array is even more famous for real-life scientific discoveries. On March 17th, the great telescope was window dressing for a comet.
“Light from the nearly quarter Moon high in the sky illuminated the landscape and highlighted the rims of the 27 dishes of the VLA,” says Dyer. “Fortunately, the array was arranged in its most compact formationfor easy photography – at times the dishes can be spread out over many miles.”
“The comet appeared in deep twilight,” he continues. “A classic curving dust tail is now obvious in photos. This comet will bear watching and shooting over the next month, no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere.”