In the sky: Comet PanSTARRS is here

Simulation of Comet PanSTARRS as seen in the northern United States. Credit: NASA.

Simulation of Comet PanSTARRS as seen in the United States. Credit: NASA.

The first bright comet of 2013 is entering the northern skies this weekend. Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) will be brightest for the next three days or so, rivaling the stars of the Big Dipper. The exact position in the sky will vary with time and with your latitude. Here is a good guide to finding it.

To spot this comet, first find an unobstructed view of the western horizon. (For many people living in populated areas, this may be the hard part.) Then, wait until about half an hour after sunset. Finally, look just a little to the left and above where the Sun went down–this close to the equinox, that will be almost due west. If you have clear skies and good eye, you should be able to see it. Good luck!

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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