Comet Pan-STARRS

Comet Pan-STARRS is in the northern sky and might be seen with the naked eye!

Comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS from Paranal. Along with another small bit of debris from the Solar System.Credit: Gabriel Brammer

Comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS from Paranal. Along with another small bit of debris from the Solar System.
Credit: Gabriel Brammer

The best dates to look will be Mar. 12 and 13, when the very thin crescent Moon will guide you. You’ll need binoculars to pick it out of the twilight sky, but comets this bright are rare, and you should give it a shot.

Comet Pan-STARRS on Mar. 3, 2013, from Victoria, Australia. Image credit: Phil Hart

Comet Pan-STARRS on Mar. 3, 2013, from Victoria, Australia.
Image credit: Phil Hart

Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System.

The comet is non-periodic, which means that this is the first time it is dropped into the inner solar system. Its reservoir is in the Oort cloud. Comet Pan-STARRS, officially , has a long elliptical orbit around the sun. The cosmic ball of dirt and ice takes more than 100 million years to complete a full cycle around the star. This also means, you will never see it again.

When a comet enters the inner solar system on a course that brings it extremely close to the sun, the object is known as a “sungrazer.” Comet Pan-STARRS reaches perihelion (the closest point in its orbit to the Sun) on March 10.

The comet was high in the skies for people in the Southern Hemisphere for weeks. In the northern hemisphere, it started to appear over the western hemisphere after sunset around March 8, but it was so low you needed a flat horizon, clear skies, a decent pair of binoculars to spot it. But now it’s getting higher and easier to spot. Any time after about March 10 was good for spotting it, but the best date is today, Mar. 12; the crescent moon will guide you. A good time to look is about 40 minutes after sunset. The comet may appear as a sort of exclamation point in the evening sky, with the point being the comet itself and its diffuse tail stretching nearly straight up from the horizon.

The progression of comet Pan-STARRS across the night sky in March 2013.Credit: Science@NASA

The progression of comet Pan-STARRS across the night sky in March 2013.
Credit: Science@NASA

After Pan-STARRS makes its closest brush with the sun on Sunday, the comet will begin to dim. Stargazers with telescopes and binoculars might still be able to see the sungrazer until early April, but it will fade out of naked-eye visibility before the end of March.

Source:  http://goo.gl/z3svI
http://www.space.com/20142-comet-pan-starrs-surprising-facts.html
http://www.space.com/20147-comet-pan-starrs-sunset-viewing.html

Advertisements

About ~ wolfrayetstar

Science enthusiast and visual artist - hobbyist. Begginer in astrophotography and huge fan of nerdy jokes.
This entry was posted in Astronomy and Skywatching, Astrophoto and the Moon and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s