Longtime Astronomy magazine contributor John Chumack from Dayton, Ohio, sent in this great story about observing Comet PANSTARRS: On March 12, I drove about two hours to Indianapolis to catch a plane ride with one of my former University of Dayton engineering students, Kevin, who is now a pilot. Kevin took me up in his plane, in hopes of getting above the clouds to see Comet PANSTARRS — or at least fly to an airport farther south with clear weather.
Unfortunately, a really bad storm was brewing to the west over Illinois, and gusty winds blew us around a bit. After a short ride, we landed and decided to we would have to wait for another day to see the comet. We put the plane in the hangar and headed out to eat dinner.
By now it’s snowing like mad. After dinner, we headed on to Kevin’s house. As we pulled in front of his house, we noticed the snow stopping, then a huge sucker hole to the west with the thin crescent Moon and Comet PANSTARRS visible. So I managed to pop off several quick shots. For this one, I used a Canon Rebel XSi DSLR with a lens set to 135mm and f/4.5. I set the camera to ISO 400 and took a 0.8-second shot.
Goes to show, that sometimes it’s worth traveling to increase your chances of witnessing something astronomical, even if your original plan does not work out. I’m so glad I went to Indy. In the end, all we really had to do was to wait in front of Kevin’s house for an opening.