It's Your First And Last Chance To See This Comet

Mar 12, 2013

A comet named Pan-STARRS is visiting our part of the solar system and will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere for a couple of weeks.

An image of the Pan-STARRS comet taken from Australia. The comet will be visible from the US for the next few weeks.
Credit Chris_Samuel/Flickr--Creative Commons

The comet was discovered in June 2011 by a team of observers in Hawaii while doing a routine sweep of the sky and they named the comet after the telescope they were using.

Greg Novacek, director of the Lake Afton Observatory, says hopeful observers should look west.

"They’ll see the very think crescent moon just slightly south of due west," says Novacke. "And the comet will be just slightly to the south of the crescent moon.”

Novacek says there is a narrow window for viewing between 7:30 and 8:30 pm and the best conditions are during the next few days.

“The best time is really this week while the moon really isn’t too bright and doesn’t light up the sky too much," he says. "If you wait a couple of weeks, you’re going to have a full moon in the sky and it’s going to make the comet that much more difficult to see.”

If you miss this viewing, the next opportunity will be in 106,000 years, if it returns at all.