Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Beginning on or about March 8, Comet PanSTARRS should become visible just above the western horizon shortly after sunset. At that point, it may be hard to spot without binoculars. After that, it should be a naked-eye sight.

Viewers from the southern hemisphere, who have been able to see the comet for a while now, report it having two tails. Additionally, the comet brightens in magnitude as time passes, meaning that by mid-March, we should have some excellent views of it here in Maine. After that, it fades and will only be available to those with powerful telescopes.

To spot PanSTARRS, go somewhere with an open view to the west, just after sunset. Look in the general area where the sun went down and find something like a star. This should be the comet. Binoculars will give a fine view and a telescope should give a remarkable view.

Of course all this hangs upon the weather, that bugaboo of amateur astronomers. The current spate of clouds and daily rain and snow showers does not bespeak of better things to come. It is vaguely possible that the comet will come and go without us getting much of a look at it.

This Saturday, March 9, is supposed to come on sunny and bright. If so, let us hope that the fine weather continues into the evening. After Saturday, weather folks are talking more lousy weather.

So if opportunity presents itself and conditions permit, I suggest taking a look at the first of the 2013 comets. I say the first, because a highly-rated comet is due late this fall. Stay tuned for more on that. But for now, check out PanSTARRS. 

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