Comet Pan-STARRS Passing Close To Earth, Will Soon Be Visible
A comet that was only recently discovered is making a very close approach to Earth and the Sun, and will soon be visible in the Northern Hemisphere:
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A recently discovered comet is closer than it’s ever been to Earth, and stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere finally get to see it.
Called Pan-STARRS, the comet passed within 100 million miles of Earth on Tuesday, its closest approach in its first-ever cruise through the inner solar system. The ice ball will get even nearer the sun this weekend — just 28 million miles from the sun and within the orbit of Mercury.
The comet has been visible for weeks from the Southern Hemisphere. Now the top half of the world gets a glimpse as well.
The best viewing days should be next Tuesday and Wednesday, when Pan-STARRS appears next to a crescent moon at dusk in the western sky. Until then, glare from the sun will obscure the comet.
California astronomer Tony Phillips said the comet’s proximity to the moon will make it easier for novice sky watchers to find it. Binoculars likely will be needed for the best viewing, he said, warning onlookers to avoid pointing them at the setting sun.
“Wait until the sun is fully below the horizon to scan for the comet in the darkening twilight,” Phillips advised in an email sent from his home and observatory in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Pan-STARRS’ name is actually an acronym for the Hawaiian telescope used to spot it two years ago: the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. The volcano-top telescope is on constant prowl for dangerous asteroids and comets that might be headed our way.
A comet this easily visible from Earth is a rare event indeed, so don’t pass up a chance to check it out if you can.