EUGENE, Ore. — Over the next week Oregonians will get the chance to view the first of 2013’s two bright comets.
After being visible in the southern hemisphere during the past few weeks, the Comet PanSTARRS will make its first appearance in the Northern Hemisphere’s western sky Thursday, Mar. 7. Viewing will be best just after sunset, away from city lights and with clear skies.
The comet will be at its brightest on Sunday, Mar. 10 when it makes its closest approach to the sun. So far, sky cover will be mostly clear Sunday night for western Oregon, giving us a chance to see the comet’s coma and bright tail.
The comet will be as bright as the stars that make up the Big Dipper and may be found without using binoculars or a telescope.
On Mar. 12 and Mar. 13 the comet will move higher in the night sky and near the crescent moon. Unfortunately we’re looking at another storm to move through then, keeping our skies cloudy. However, other places in the Northern Hemisphere with clear skies will be treated to some prime viewing of the comet.
Comet PanSTARRS will be much fainter by the end of March as it begins its journey away from the sun.
If you miss this comet, there will be another celestial event in November; Comet ISON is expected to be even brighter in the night sky as it passes 800,000 miles from the Sun.