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Memorable Comets

Polaris-grazing Comet Panther
C/1980 Y2 (Panther)

    Comet Panther was a rather unusual comet, which appeared soon after Geisei Observatory was opened. It must have been wandering aimlessly in space. It came from nowhere and made a great show by suddenly grazing the north celestial pole in March, 1981.

    The diurnal motion of the stars around the north celestial pole is slow. I turned off the drive motor of the 60cm reflector and made a 12-minute exposure taking advantage of its large aperture. You will see the results in the photograph below. Although the stars show short trails, the comet sits surprisingly still. The brightest star in the lower-left corner is Polaris. Comet Panther was 8th magnitude around that time. You can see its tail extending upward faintly.

    About 20 years later, another comet passed close to Polaris following Comet Panther's path, but I can't remember which comet it was.

C/1980 Y2 (Panther)
12-minute exposure from 0:13, March 12, 1981 (J.S.T.)
60cm reflector, TX film

Copyright © 2005 Tsutomu Seki.