Attention all UST sky-watchers: If you haven’t heard of it yet, a new comet will soon be making its debut in the Northern hemisphere!
Called Comet PanSTARRS, it was discovered back in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) based at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy.
Since its discovery, the comet has been slowly heading toward the inner solar system on its way to reaching its closest point to the sun, known as perihelion, which will occur on March 10.
In early February, people in Australia started taunting us with their great pictures as it was seen for the first time with a naked eye from the Southern Hemisphere. It has continued on its way north, though, and on March 12, comet PanSTARRS will pass into Northern Hemisphere skies.
The best times to look will be on the evenings of March 12th and 13th. On those evenings you can use the crescent Moon as a guide to help you find PanSTARRS. On the 12th the comet will be to the Moon’s upper left. On the 13th, the comet will be to the Moon’s lower right. If the skies are clear, you should be able to see it with a naked eye somewhat close to the horizon, although binoculars will definitely help to see the tail more clearly.
Busy those nights? No worries: if you miss it, you will only have 110,000 years to wait for its next appearance!
(Or you can wait a few months to see another comet; Comet ISON, predicted to be even brighter, is hot on its heels in November. We’ll be sure to keep you posted when it comes near!)