Your chance to catch comet Pans-STARRS

posted at 6:31 pm on March 9, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

At the moment you read this, you may want to consider running outside if you’re on the east coast of the US. For the folks further west, you have a few hours left to plan. Assuming that the clouds aren’t covering the sky, there is a bit of hopefully spectacular science coming up on the western horizon.

While the Southern Hemisphere has had some great views of Comet Pan-STARRS for several weeks, it’s now everyone else’s turn to have a shot.

Starting tonight and lasting through March 20th, Pan-STARRS will start to make it’s way up the western horizon – with tomorrow evening (March 10th) marking its brightest point.

According to EarthSky.org (which has a great guide for viewing the comet), your best bet at spotting it is just after sunset, just as the sky starts to darken.

This should – allegedly – be visible to the naked eye, assuming you have a clear view to the west. The moon is nearly new, so it won’t be cluttering up the viewing too badly. As the linked article notes, however, it will be putting on a show for the next few nights, so you may have a couple more chances to see it. Go on out and give it a shot. If you miss it, however, there’s another, possibly bigger show coming in the fall.

If you happen to miss Pan-STARRS (most of the us in the northeast are lucky to get one or two cloudless nights in March), don’t worry – the big comet of 2013, Comet ISON, is still on track to give us a historic visit next November.

I’m old enough to have seen the last trip of Haley, but that was something of a dud. Hale-Bopp was the last one I saw which was truly breathtaking. These are fairly rare events, so even if you’re not normally into the geek stuff, it’s worth going out to take a peek. For some background, here are the last five big ones. Enjoy.


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Thanks for the heads up, but drats, I’ve got some clouds.

rbj on March 9, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Last I heard Joe Biden was seen chasing it across the White House lawn.

viking01 on March 9, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Comet West, in 1976, was truly a spectacular comet – even in the daytime.

I’m waiting for the storm clouds to clear out to view pan-starrs.

locomotivebreath1901 on March 9, 2013 at 6:38 PM

if the moon rises in the east why do you have to look west to see the comet?

renalin on March 9, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Go on out and give it a shot

…do we have to take an anger management course first?

KOOLAID2 on March 9, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Last I heard Joe Biden was seen chasing it across the White House lawn.

viking01 on March 9, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Ok…thats funny. It is. Really.

BobMbx on March 9, 2013 at 6:52 PM

From SpaceWeather!

COMET PAN-STARRS MOVES NORTH: On March 10th, Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) makes its closest approach to the sun inside the orbit of Mercury. As the comet swings by the sun it is also crossing the celestial equator, moving from southern to northern skies. First sightings of the comet are now coming in from the northern hemisphere. Halda Mohammed sends this picture from Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia (latitude +5o N):

“After several days of comet hunting at dusk, on March 8th I finally caught a glimpse of my first comet ever – Comet PanSTARRS,” says Mohammed. “Wonderful! I plan to try again tonight.”

If the low clouds part, he’ll probably see it again. Worldwide observers report that the comet is glowing about as brightly as a 2nd magnitude star, similar to the stars of the Big Dipper. Technically, that makes it a naked-eye object. The only problem is bright evening twilight, which competes with the glow of the comet. Look low and west after sunset; if you can’t see the comet, try scanning the horizon with binoculars.

Dates of special interest include March 12th and 13th when the comet passes not far from the crescent Moon. The tight conjunction on the 12th provides a splendid opportunity for sunset photographers. Sky maps: March 12, March 13,

Visibility will improve next week as the comet moves away from the sun. When it is framed by darker skies, Pan-STARRS should become an easy target for naked eyes and small telescopes alike. Check the realtime comet gallery for the latest images.
=================================================

http://www.spaceweather.com/

canopfor on March 9, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Thanks for the heads up, but drats, I’ve got some clouds.

[rbj on March 9, 2013 at 6:33 PM]

Clear everywhere here except the western horizon. I’ll ditto that drats.

Dusty on March 9, 2013 at 6:59 PM

Assuming that the clouds aren’t covering the sky
=================================================

Cloud Cover,from 22,500 Miles Up!

GOES EAST:

http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/goescolor/goeseast/overview2/color_lrg/latestfull.jpg

GOES WEST:

http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/goescolor/goeswest/overview2/color_lrg/latestfull.jpg
===============

http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/

canopfor on March 9, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Thanks for the heads up, but drats, I’ve got some clouds.

[rbj on March 9, 2013 at 6:33 PM]
————————————–

Clear everywhere here except the western horizon. I’ll ditto that drats.

Dusty on March 9, 2013 at 6:59 PM

Dusty:Yup, up here at the Great Lakes,I’m BOINKED as well!:)

canopfor on March 9, 2013 at 7:03 PM

Dammit, why didn’t you post this sooner?! I almost forgot!!

clancy_wiggum on March 9, 2013 at 7:03 PM

Comet West, in 1976, was truly a spectacular comet – even in the daytime.

I’m waiting for the storm clouds to clear out to view pan-starrs.

locomotivebreath1901 on March 9, 2013 at 6:38 PM

My first comet was in 1965, and it was also spectacular in the daytime. That would be Ikeya-Seki

Del Dolemonte on March 9, 2013 at 7:11 PM

And don’t forget, kids, tomorrow night you will have to start looking 1 hour later.

Del Dolemonte on March 9, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Tuesday the 12th 30 minutes after sunset… Look for the new moon and Panstarrs to be a few degrees apart, just above the horizon where the sun went down. The 13th will be a good night too.

Look west young man, and woman too.

RalphyBoy on March 9, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Relax, some drone will pop the thing.

Don L on March 9, 2013 at 7:29 PM

Your chance to catch comet

Comet smomet, if it aint crashing into Mordor on the Potomac, it aint no damned good for nothing.

SWalker on March 9, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Awwwww I can’t see it from here, would be nice tho…got low clouds on the horizon…it’s so nice to watch the heavens in motion, esp with someone to cuddle :-)…I wish…

You got it right there SW!! :-)

Scrumpy on March 9, 2013 at 7:53 PM

I just ran outside, and it’s already below the horizon. : (

listens2glenn on March 9, 2013 at 8:01 PM

if the moon rises in the east why do you have to look west to see the comet?

renalin on March 9, 2013 at 6:51 PM

.
What if it’s the first “crescent” moon, one day after a “new” moon?

Same thing.

listens2glenn on March 9, 2013 at 8:05 PM

I’m old enough to have seen the last trip of Haley, but that was something of a dud. Hale-Bopp was the last one I saw which was truly breathtaking. These are fairly rare events, so even if you’re not normally into the geek stuff, it’s worth going out to take a peek. For some background, here are the last five big ones. Enjoy.

Not quite in the same genre but stilspace-related. Neatest thing ever saw was the space shuttle shoot by on its way to a rare night landing at Cape Canaveral just as the plane I was on was landing in New Orleans.

Happy Nomad on March 9, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Not quite in the same genre but stilspace-related. Neatest thing ever saw was the space shuttle shoot by on its way to a rare night landing at Cape Canaveral just as the plane I was on was landing in New Orleans.

Happy Nomad on March 9, 2013 at 8:25 PM

…when I was little kid…we were camped by a beach in Wawa, Ontario Canada…and the US and USSR space capsules looked like 2 stars about to collide…never will forget…I still see it!

KOOLAID2 on March 9, 2013 at 9:24 PM

Thanks, jazz the bon fire is lit and I’m headed out to watch in a clear sky over the Bitterroot Mountains. Big Sky Country, hope to catch a good show.

MontanaMmmm on March 9, 2013 at 9:39 PM

if the moon rises in the east why do you have to look west to see the comet?

renalin on March 9, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Because it is not bright enough to be seen in daylight.

Slowburn on March 10, 2013 at 1:59 AM

A patina of snow. No star light, but thanks Jazz for the heads up.

AshleyTKing on March 10, 2013 at 3:19 AM

Important tip: you need a really, really low western horizon. Like over the ocean if possible.

drunyan8315 on March 11, 2013 at 12:24 AM