Comet PanStarrs Visible Shortly After Sunset

Comet PANSTARRS and the Waxing Crescent Moon as seen over Castroville, Texas, USA, on March 12, 2013. Credit and copyright Adrian New.
Northern Hemisphere skygazers haven’t seen a bright comet with a long tail since Comet Hale-Bopp graced the night sky in 1997. However, Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) has in recent days been visible to the naked-eye and through binoculars after sunset.

Naked-eye viewers south of the equator watched the comet brighten nicely during February. In early March, Comet PANSTARRS veered sharply northward and gradually came into view in the evening sky for observers at mid-northern latitudes.

On March 9 and 10, it passed within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) of the Sun and stood some 7° high in the west 30 minutes after sunset. Over the next few days it will continue to glow, perhaps reaching 1st magnitude.

A crescent Moon will guide you to the comet tonight. This evening, PANSTARRS will lie to the Moon’s lower right.

Anthony Lynch captured this photograph of an astronomy enthusiast at the foot of the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, Dublin, looking through his binoculars for a glimpse of the Comet PanStarrs last night. The Plough (Ursa Major) can be
Comet PanStarrs over Phoenix Park, Dublin, last evening. Image Anthony Lynch
The projected brightness curve of comet PanSTARRS. Created by the author and based on data from, JPL/Horizons light curves, & Guy Ottewell’s 2013 Almanac. Image Universe Today
The path of Comet PanSTARRS looking west about an hour after local sunset from 30 degrees north latitude on March 8th-16th.