COMET C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)
This is an exciting year for comets!
Remember how you’ve waited patiently to see a comet ... only to have it visible from a telescope? Those of us who sometimes had to use telescopes without clock drives remember that Earth’s rotation quickly moved the image from the scope if our hands were not actively moving the telescope tube. But this year, we will not only have Comet ISON in November, we will have one in March that will be visible without a telescope. What a year! WOW! I hope all my former astronomy students are sitting up to take notice and planning to look to the west in their night skies. This spring comet will perhaps be best viewed about 45-minutes after sunset above the setting Sun and move toward the north as the days progress from 12 March through 24 March.
True, many past comets have been disappointing as their tails did not grow to be as large as predicted. But the March and November comets should prove two of the best in our lifetime.
Pan-STARRS is the abbreviation for the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System set of telescopes used for surveying and identifying near Earth objects. Consequently, it is an excellent set of telescopes to find comets. Since it found Comet C/2011 L4, the comet was named after it. The “C” means that it is a comet with a large orbit and one not seen in our written history. It may have been near us before, but if so, was before mankind began documenting comets. It is estimated that the orbit is so large, it will take perhaps 100,000-years for it to return.
The March comet, COMET C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) will reach perihelion (closest point to Sun) in March 2013. It should become a very bright object in our sky and visible without binoculars or a telescope. Earth averages about 93-million miles from the Sun. Right now this comet is a little over three times that distance and moving toward the Sun. Magnitude-wise, it is expected to be between -1 to +1.
I think the best images of comets, including this one, are found at: http://spaceweather.com/gallery/index.php?title=comet
The Remazacco Observatory is one of the best sites from which to obtain current and up to date information about comets. Their link is below. You can easily become recipient of their emails to keep you informed of the comets.
REMAZACCO OBSERVATORY: http://remanzacco.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-update-on-comet-c2011-l4-panstarrs.html
To make it easy for you to catch up on the latest news about the March comet, other links include:
SKY & TELESCOPE: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/Comet-PanSTARRS-Still-on-Track-147166535.html
COMETARY SCIENCE ARCHIVE (contains ephemeris for viewing) http://www.csc.eps.harvard.edu/2011L4/index.html
EARTH AND SKY - “Comet PANSTARRS possibly visible to eye in March 2013”: http://earthsky.org/space/comet-panstarrs-possibly-visible-to-eye-in-march-2013
GARY W. KRONK’S COMETOGRAPHY: http://cometography.com/lcomets/2011l4.html
ASTRO BOB: http://astrobob.areavoices.com/2012/05/28/panstarrs-the-next-bright-comet/
UNIVERSE TODAY and BEFORE ITS NEWS: http://beforeitsnews.com/earthquakes/2013/01/comet-panstarrs-to-make-an-appearance-in-march-2013-2448206.html
WIKIPEDIA, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C/2011_L4