Pan-STARRS Comet Passing By
ETX- Attention, Sky Watchers! Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) has been spotted in the skies for the past few nights around twilight. The comet is visible by the naked eye as a distinct tail of gas and dust. Comets such as this one are rare, so step outside and make an effort to view it in the low western horizon just after sunset.
According to National Geographic, about a half-hour to an hour after sunset on March 12 and 13, will be the easiest time to spot the comet, thanks to a young crescent moon. The moon will act as a convenient guidepost in helping to track down Pan-STARRS. On the 12th, look for the comet to the moon’s upper left. On the 13th, the comet will appear to be hanging to the lower right of the moon.
Viewers should find a dark place to watch the western horizon. Comet Pan-STARRS should appear as a hazy smudge of light in the twilight sky with possibly a growing tail. Binoculars and small telescopes will help viewers see detail.
Starting from the 12th, look for the comet to glide across the background of stars appearing to move night to night from the low west to the higher north until it parks itself in the constellation Cassiopeia by the end of March.
Pan-STARRS was discovered in June 2011, and has reportedly brightened a million-fold according to National Geographic. Pan-STARRS was discovered while astronomers were searching for potentially hazardous asteroids. The first faint image was taken from Hawaii with the Pan Starrs telescope while it was still more than 700 million miles away.