March 11, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) A Naked-Eye Comet on March 12 and 13, 2013

On March 10th, Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) made its closest approach to the sun.

Inside the orbit of Mercury, the comet was hit by solar rays ten times more intense than we experience on Earth.

The close encounter brought it into the field of view of NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft.


Although Comet Pan-STARRS is bright, somewhere between 1st and 2nd magnitude, most observers say they are still having trouble seeing it with the unaided eye in the bright evening twilight. Visibility will improve in the nights ahead as the comet moves away from the sun. Dates of special interest include March 12th and 13th when Pan-STARRS passes not far from the crescent Moon.

This is Comet Pan-STARRS's first visit to the inner solar system. The comet comes once in a hundred million years in the vicinity of the earth and could become a naked-eye object.

The tight conjunction on the 12th provides a splendid opportunity for sunset photographers. Look low and west for a beautiful view.

 

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