Comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS

Image: Terry Lovejoy

As long as you have clear skies and a good view of the western horizon, this week could be a good opportunity to try to find and observe Comet PanSTARRS.

Discovered in 2011 by the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii, the comet has since increased in brightness as it’s made its way through the solar system toward the Sun and has also developed a noticable tail.

To be in with a chance, you’ll need to observe the western sky approximately 30 minutes after the sun has set.

However, you should bear in mind that it perhaps won’t be the easiest thing in the sky to find.

Low on the western horizon and so soon after sunset, it will be difficult to spot. Anyone who has ever tried to observe the planet Mercury close to sunset will know just how tricky it can be.

Also comets are quite tenuous objects and not just points of light in the sky. So even a “bright” comet will not appear quite the same as an equal magnitude planet or star.


To make matter worse, some of the sky chart graphics currently being used can be somewhat misleading to those with less experience. It’s can be hard to judge just how high or low up in the sky this comet will be from your location.

This is probably a more realistic view of the comet:

But if it is clear and you do have a clear western horizon, give it a go. All you should need to do is grab a pair of binoculars. If you’re lucky you may see get to see the comet. If you’ve got a camera, you could even try photographing that region of the sky.


Posted on 11 March, 2013, in Astronomy News, Observing News, Popular Science, Stargazing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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