Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS Visible In Western Horizon


Visibility Simulation of Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) from Fred Espenak on Vimeo.


We mentioned Comet PanSTARRS' visibility in the western horizon during the course of this week in a post on Facebook over the weekend.  This serves as a friendly reminder that the comet will continue to remain visible in the western horizon the next couple of nights.

The comet is named for the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) on Mount Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii. They were the ones who discovered the comet in June 2011. Pan-STARRS does more than just scan for comets -- they look for any objects or asteroids that could potentially approach or hit Earth.  For example, in one night Pan-STARRS found 19 near Earth objects!

The comet is best viewed in the west-northwest sky around dusk.  Over the next several nights, the comet will lift farther above the western horizon and become fainter as it lifts higher above the horizon.  The farther away from the city you are -- and in this case, it helps being west of Philadelphia, the better your chances are of seeing the comet.  Best viewing times would be between 7:45 and 8:30 PM, about 45 to 90 minutes after sunset.