Comet PANSTARRS Approaches Sun, Visible Throughout March
Comet PANSTARRS is the closet to the sun today which makes it bright but difficult to see.
Comet PANSTARRS might be at its brightest tonight, reports NASA.
Scientists say the ability to see a comet without the aid of a telescope usually happens only once every five to 10 years. In 2013 however, sky watchers might have the opportunity to see two comets with the naked-eye, including the comet PANSTARRS (or Pan-STARRS) which is visible throughout March and Comet ISON, which will be in our skies this fall.
The opportunity to see Comet PANSTARRS is only available every 100 million years, reports space.com.
PANSTARRS will be be visible in the Northern Hemisphere for about 15 minutes after sunset until the end of March. To see Comet PANSTARRS, look to the west after right after the sun goes down.
On Sunday, Mar. 10, the comet will make its closest approach to the sun, about 28 million miles away, which might obscure the view of PANSTARRS until about Tuesday, Mar. 12, says NASA. Comets like PANSTARRS come so close to the sun that they risk breaking apart, but if they survive, they shine brightly.
The Near-Earth Object Observations Program discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) program finds and tracks objects that could approach earth. Although congress set a deadline of 2020 for scientists to find 90 percent of the near-Earth objects that could cause devastation, the program has been underfunded, reports New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, physicist and former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.