Comet Pan-STARRS best seen this week

Monday, March 11, 2013 | 5:22 p.m. CDT; updated 6:35 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Located about 30 million miles from the sun, comet Pan-STAARS can be best seen in the west, as close to the horizion as possible. Experts recommend looking for the comet 30 minutes after sunset. The diagram below shows how to best locate the comet with the naked eye in the month of March.

COLUMBIA — Grab a pair of binoculars and set your sights due west Tuesday night for what could be a spectacular view of Comet Pan-STARRS.

Weather permitting, Comet Pan-STARRS will be visible 10 degrees off the horizon shortly after sunset, from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m.

"What we'll have is the crescent moon and a comet to the left of it," Val Germann, treasurer of the Central Missouri Astronomical Association, said. "It will make for great photographs." 

Currently at a +1 magnitude, Comet Pan-STARRS is brighter than Polaris, the north star. 

Over the next three weeks, Comet Pan-STARRS will be visible as it moves north through the night skies, but the best views will be this first week. 

Laws Observatory, located on the top of the MU Physics Building will be open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 7 p.m. 

The Central Missouri Astronomical Association will have binoculars and telescopes available. Binoculars will be the best way to view the comet.

"A 10 x 50 pair would work best, but really any would do the job, " Germann said. 

This isn't the only chance to see a comet in 2013 though. Comet ISON, expected to be a naked-eye comet as bright as the moon and visible in daylight, could make an appearance in late November if it survives its perihelion, or, its time closest to the sun. 

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