Monday, 4 March 2013

Comet PANSTARRS passes closest to Earth




On March 5, 2013 Comet PANSTARRS will passes closest to Earth at 1.10 Astronomical Units, (AU), a bit more than the distance between Earth and Sun(150million kilometers). There are no chances of the comer hitting Earth.

From March 7, 2013 PANSTARRS will appear above the western horizon after sunset for Indian viewers. You can also see it just after the Sunset provided that sky is clear, cloudless and unobstructed. If you will look in the direction sunset PANSTARRS will be just visible above the horizon.

The comet passes closest to the sun on March 10. It will be as closest as Mercury (first planet from Sun).
Comets are brightest and most active around the time when they are closest to the Sun, solar heating vaporizes ice and dust from the comet’s outer crust. The comet not only brightens quickly, but it also develops the long classic comet dust tail.

Throughout March the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere evening sky low in the west after sunset. It will move northward each evening during March 2013 as it moves from being in front of the constellation Pisces to being in front of the constellations Pegasus and Andromeda. At this time, the comet might have a bright dust tail, and perhaps visible to the unaided eye or binoculars. It should, at least, if it lives up to expectations. Remember to look for the comet in the vicinity of the waxing crescent moon on March 12, 13 and 14. The comet swings above the star Algenib on March 17/18, and above the star Alpheratz on March 25/26.

April 2013. No matter how bright it gets in March, the comet will surely fade as April arrives, as it moves away from the sun and back out into the depths of space. But it will be located far to the north on the sky’s dome and will be circumpolar for northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. That means it might be visible somewhere in the northern sky throughout the night for northern observers. What’s more, the comet will be near in the sky to another beautiful and fuzzy object in our night sky, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the nearest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. If the comet truly is bright then, and if it still has a substantial tail, it’ll be an awesome photo opportunity!

The Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered this comet in June 2011. Since comets carry the names of their discoverers, it has been designated C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS). Only the largest telescopes on Earth could glimpse Comet PANSTARRS when it was first discovered, but amateurs telescopes began to pick it up by May 2012. By October 2012, its surrounding coma was seen to be large and fine at an estimated 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers) wide.

By the way, Comet PANSTARRS is considered a non-periodic comet. It probably took millions of years to come from the great Oort comet cloud surrounding our solar system. Once it rounds the sun, experts say, its orbit will shorten to only 110,000 years. It is, for sure, a once-in-a-lifetime comet. 

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