WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #13-24 "Comet Report"
Air Dates June 17, 2013 - June 23, 2013



FIVE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
JAMES: HEY THERE STAR GAZERS. I'M JAMES ALBURY, DIRECTOR OF THE KIKA SILVA PLA PLANETARIUM IN GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA.

DEAN: AND I'M DEAN REGAS, ASTRONOMER FOR THE CINCINNATI OBSERVATORY.

MARLENE: AND I'M MARLENE HIDALGO, SCIENCE TEACHER FROM MIAMI-DADE COUNTY FLORIDA. BACK IN FEBRUARY WE ALERTED YOU ABOUT A BRIGHT COMET THAT YOU MIGHT SEE IN THE WESTERN SKY AFTER SUNSET IN THE MIDDLE OF MARCH. HOW MANY OF YOU ACTUALLY SPOTTED IT?

JAMES: I TRIED SEVERAL NIGHTS AND I EVENTUALLY SAW IT BUT I HAD TO USE BINOCULARS.

DEAN: I SAW IT ONE TIME--JUST BARELY.

MARLENE: WELL, SOME PEOPLE SAW IT PRETTY WELL. SO LET'S SEE WHAT KIND OF SHOW COMET PANSTARRS ACTUALLY DID PUT ON.

DEAN: HERE WE ARE IN FRONT OF AN IMAGE THAT PRETTY WELL SHOWS WHAT COMET PANSTARRS, ACTUALLY LOOKED LIKE WITH THE UNAIDED EYE ON THE NIGHT OF MARCH 13TH. WE'D LIKE TO THANK MIKE PALERMITI FROM JUPITER, FLORIDA WHO HAS KINDLY ALLOWED US TO USE HIS WONDERFUL PICTURE OF THIS NAKED-EYE COMET.
(FLY IN CLOSEUP OF COMET)

MARLENE:  ALTHOUGH IT'S OFTEN CALLED COMET PANSTARRS, THE COMET'S OFFICIAL NAME IS C/2011L4. THERE ARE ACTUALLY QUITE A FEW OTHER COMETS THAT HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED BY THE PAN-STARRS SYSTEM BUT THIS IS THE FAMOUS ONE. THE IMPORTANT THING WE WANT YOU TO NOTICE IS THAT A COMET IS NOT A FLAMING BALL OF FIRE ZOOMING ACROSS THE SKY. IT JUST HANGS THERE IN THE DARKENING SKY AND WILL SET JUST LIKE THE SUN DOES.

JAMES: LET'S EXPLAIN THE WEIRD LETTER AND NUMBER COMBINATIONS THAT ARE USED FOR COMET NAMES. AS MARLENE SAID THIS COMET IS OFFICIALLY CALLED C/2011L4: THE C/ MEANS THAT THIS IS A LONG-PERIOD COMET, WHICH MEANS IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO ORBIT THE SUN. THE 2011 IS THE YEAR IT WAS DISCOVERED. THE "L" TELLS US IT WAS FOUND IN THE FIRST 2 WEEKS OF JUNE, ACTUALLY JUNE 6. AND THE "4" TELLS US IT WAS THE 4TH COMET REPORTED IN THAT TIME PERIOD.

MARLENE: WOULDN'T IT BE EASIER IF THEY JUST USED NAMES?

DEAN: YES, IT MIGHT, BUT THERE WERE AT LEAST 6 OTHER, MUCH FAINTER COMET PANSTARRS IN THE SKY THAT SAME EVENING. SO IT WOULD BE KIND OF HARD TO KEEP TRACK OF THEM JUST USING THE NAME PANSTARRS. LET'S TAKE A TRIP OUT INTO SPACE AND SEE WHAT THE ORBIT OF OUR BUDDY PANSTARRS LOOKED LIKE.

DEAN: O.K., WE'RE LOOKING BACK AT THE SUN FROM BEYOND THE ORBIT OF THE EARTH AND LET'S ADD THE ORBIT OF MERCURY, VENUS, EARTH AND THE COMET. IT'S MARCH 8TH AND C/2011L4 IS APPROACHING ITS CLOSEST POINT TO THE SUN, ALSO KNOWN AS PERIHELION.

MARLENE: I WANT YOU TO NOTICE SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT. LOOK AT THE COMET'S TAIL. IT'S NOT FOLLOWING IN THE PATH OF THE COMET...

JAMES: IT'S POINTING AWAY FROM THE SUN.

DEAN: THEN ON THE 10TH OF MARCH, THE COMET WAS AT ITS CLOSEST POINT IN ITS ORBIT.

JAMES: AND THE TAIL IS STILL POINTING AWAY FROM THE SUN. LET'S ADVANCE EVERY OTHER DAY FOR A WEEK OR TWO AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS.

MARLENE: MARCH 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22. NOTICE THAT THE TAIL ALWAYS POINTS AWAY FROM THE SUN AS THE COMET RAPIDLY CLIMBS UP ABOVE THE PLANE OF THE PLANETS.

DEAN: AND NOTICE THAT THE TAIL SHRINKS A BIT EACH DAY AS THE COMET GETS FARTHER FROM THE HEAT OF THE SUN. LET'S PULL BACK A BIT AND SEE WHERE THE COMET IS NOW. THE COMET IS NOW ABOUT TWO HUNDRED MILLION MILES AWAY FROM US AND FADING BACK INTO SPACE, NOT TO REAPPEAR FOR A HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS.

MARLENE: BUT WHERE IS IT IN THE SKY TONIGHT? DO YOU THINK WE CAN STILL SEE IT? LET'S TAKE A LOOK AND FIND OUT.

DEAN: OK, WEVE GOT OUR SKIES SET FOR 10 OCLOCK FACING NORTH ANY NIGHT NEXT WEEK. FIRST FIND THE BIG DIPPER IN THE NORTHWEST. THEN USE ITS POINTER STARS AND FIND POLARIS OUR NORTH STAR. THEN GO STRAIGHT UP ABOVE POLARIS AND FIND TWO FAINT LITTLE STARS , KOCHAB AND PHERKAD THAT MARK THE END OF THE BOWL OFTHE LITTLE DIPPER.

MARLENE: COMET PANSTARRS C/2011L4 IS JUST A BIT ABOVE AND LEFT OF KOCHAB AND PHERKAD AND WILL MAKE A NICE LITTLE TRIANGLE WITH THEM, BUT SEE IT? NO WAY! KOCHAB AND PHERKAD ARE ABOUT 500 TIMES BRIGHTER THAN THE COMET WITH PANSTARRS GETTING FAINTER EACH DAY.

JAMES: SO IF YOU DIDN'T SPOT PANSTARRS THIS TIME AROUND, YOU'RE OUT OF LUCK. BUT DON'T GIVE UP HOPE BECAUSE THERE'S ANOTHER COMET COMING THAT ASTRONOMERS EXPECT WILL PUT ON A MUCH BETTER SHOW AROUND THANKSGIVING.
SO...

THREE: KEEP LOOKING UP

 

Episode #13-24 "Comet Report"
Air Dates June 17, 2013 - June 23, 2013



ONE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
MARLENE: BACK IN FEBRUARY WE ALERTED YOU TO A BRIGHT COMET THAT YOU MIGHT SEE IN THE WESTERN SKY AFTER SUNSET IN THE MIDDLE OF MARCH. HOW MANY OF YOU ACTUALLY SPOTTED IT?

DEAN: IT WAS SO CLOUDY IN CINCINNAT I ONLY SAW IT ONCE AND I HAD TO USE BINOCULARS.

MARLENE: WELL, LET'S SEE WHAT KIND OF SHOW COMET PANSTARRS ACTUALLY DID PUT ON.

DEAN:  WE'RE IN FRONT OF AN IMAGE THAT PRETTY WELL SHOWS WHAT COMET PANSTARRS, ACTUALLY LOOKED LIKE WITH THE UNAIDED EYE ON THE NIGHT OF MARCH 13. THANKS TO MIKE PALERMITI FROM JUPITER, FLORIDA.

MARLENE: THE IMPORTANT THING WE WANT YOU TO NOTICE IS THAT A COMET IS NOT A FLAMING BALL OF FIRE ZOOMING ACROSS THE SKY. IT JUST HANGS THERE IN THE DARKENING SKY AND WILL SET JUST LIKE THE SUN DOES.

DEAN: COMET PANSTARRS IS NOW ABOUT TWO HUNDRED MILLION MILES AWAY FROM US AND FADING BACK INTO SPACE, NOT TO REAPPEAR FOR A HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS.

BOTH: KEEP LOOKING UP!

 

Star Gazers Home Page Back to WPBT2.org Miami Science Museum Kika Silva Pla Planetarium | Santa Fe College The Cincinnati Observatory Support Star Gazes with your donation