View Comet March 5-12—With Luck

The comet named after the array of cameras and telescopes on Mount Haleakala on Maui may sport a very cool dust tail, says NASA, and it's one the first of two comets expected over the Northern Hemisphere in 2013.

Comet fans — turn your eyes skyward.

From March 5 to 24, the Comet Pan-STARRS will be passing within view, NASA says ... but it might take binoculars, clear skies and an unobstructed view of the horizon from the East Bay ridges.

By March, 10, when it passes closest to the sun — says EarthSky.org, which has a Pan-STARRS viewing guide — it will not only get brighter, but may develop the classic comet dust tail as the heat vaporizes the ice and dust.

To see it, you'll have to look to the western horizon just after sunset, away from streetlights and other sources of light.

Depending on the date, it should be visible just after sunset for 45 minutes. It will climb higher and be visible longer later in the month. Around March 12-13, the new moon could provide an additional visual treat, EarthSky recommends.

The comet gets its name from the discoverers — in this case, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, operated by the University of Hawaii on Mount Haleakala on Maui. 

In February, the comet was visible to the those in the Southern Hemisphere. Sky and Telescope published these comments and photos from observers in Buenos Aires about their observations by naked eye, telescope and camera lens.

If you can't catch this comet, there's something to look forward to, come November, when the even brighter Comet ISON is expected.

This story originated on Los Altos Patch.


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