Chasing the Comet Panstarrs C/2011 L4

When the comet Panstarrs crossed the perihelion in early March, it has become readily visible to the astronomer in northern hemisphere. Unfortunately the weather in Indiana has been frozen for weeks without sunshine. On the 13th of March, windy weather finally clears all the clouds from horizon and gave me a chance to see it myself.

Animation from the software suggests a very low altitude angle from horizon. This means any tree could easily block your view, this is especially true for flat plain like the State of Indiana. After searching for a spot above the surrounding area, it turn out that a 20 meter slope on the bank of Route IN-52 near walmart will be the best for my first try.

The exaggerated tail from Starry Night Pro Plus really made me thought it should be visible to naked eye. Yet after almost an hour without seeing its appearance, I flicked on the liveview and began scanning the horizon. It turned out that the Panstarrs was really dim and almost soaked in the blinding twilight. And unexpectedly, the comet set into the bright glare of street lamp in the park lot.

After moving our location to the other side of parking lot, the comet is only visible between trees. I managed to capture it before it fades into the cloud. The first try is worthy enough after being blown by the wind.


On 17th, my friend had led me to the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm just north of West Lafayette. A area of 20 minutes drive from center of Lafayette so unobscured that you could see the horizon. When weather clears again on that following week, we decided to chase it down once more.

Fowler Ridge Wind Farm

Sunset at Wind Farm

And here is the Panstarrs with its tail rotating to point upward. Right now this comet is fading rapidly. With the interference from the light pollution and haze on the ground, and also the twilight, Panstarrs is only visible inside viewfinder.


And a finally, a short time lapse I took the other day.

Compilation of libgphoto2 under Cygwin

Gphoto2, and its library libgphoto2 is a Linux application enables controlling cameras and downloading images through USB PTP or serial cable. It is of importance if you would like to build a remote controlled camera or automate the time lapse photography with advanced setting, such as altering the shutter speed during sunset with a predefined value, or make exposure at precise moment for solar eclipse. Another feature will be turning on service mode to enable uncooked RAW image download for Nikon DSLRs. Cameras from almost all vendor are supported.

But this package is for Linux, we will need a emulator to work in Windows. Cygwin is one great linux emulator with a core cygwin1.dll to link basic windows API with the Linux API. Application compiled in Cygwin will be saved as a Windows executable (.exe), and can be run from Cygwin command line or directly in windows with DLLs in the same folder. To help newbie who don’t know much about Linux and want quick compilation, here’s a list of package you need to install in order to get a working libgphoto2.

I’m working with the following combination. Unlike Windows and Mac, Linux is a collection of open source package, compatibility is really a big issue. It’s like in the old days when they quote TIFF as Thousands of Incompatible File Format!

Cygwin Setup v2.774 & libgphoto2 v2.5.1.1





GNU make






Except for “GNU make”, make sure you installed the source code for the other packages. Then it should be fine to follow the install procedure.