2013: PANSTARRS Seen in the Northern Hemisphere

March 12th, 2013

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SPACE – A comet visible to the naked eye will streak across the night sky in North America tonight, and if you’re lucky, you can see it for yourself. Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS is an icy ball of dirt currently located about 30 million miles from the sun. It will appear in our night skies all month long, but if you want to see it without the aid of binoculars or a telescope, tonight’s your best bet. To view the comet, first find a spot where you can see the western part of the sky, all the way down to the horizon. It will also help if you’re away from a city, so you don’t have to deal with light pollution. Clear weather is also a necessity. Wait until about half an hour after sunset, and then look towards the western sky. The crescent moon should be just barely above the horizon, and that will help you find the comet, which should appear about 10 degrees to the west of the moon –roughly the size of your fist, if you hold it out at arm’s length. According to NASA, the comet “will appear as a bright point of light with its diffuse tail pointing nearly straight up from the horizon like an exclamation point.” PANSTARRS was discovered in June 2011, and is named after the telescopic survey that first spotted it, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, which is based atop the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii. Comets that are visible on Earth with the naked eye are relatively uncommon, usually occurring only a few times a decade. But if you miss your chance to catch this one, don’t fret; there’s another comet due later this year, and it’s predicted to be spectacular. If conditions are right, Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) may shine brighter than the full moon during the last few days of November. –Forbes

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If you weren’t able to see Panstarrs because of clouds or city buildings then check out this link. It shows the comet fly by as the sun sets in the background:
Finding Comet Pan-STARRS 3-11-2013 VIDEO

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