Get First Hand Look At Comet Pan-STARRS

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

Texas A&M Astronomer Lucas Macri is more excited than usual to look to the heavens this week.

"Being able to see a comet with the naked eye is a wonderful opportunity," said Macri.

Starting tonight, Comet Pan-STARRS will be making its return trip to the outskirts of our solar system and on its way out, people in our part of the world will get a chance to see it.

"At 7:45 every evening over the next few nights, the comet will appear to rise slightly night after night," said Macri.

Astronomers believe the comet has a long elliptical orbit around the sun and takes over 100 million years to complete a cycle.

"This comet, this is probably the first time it's come close to the sun since the solar system was formed," said Macri.

Macri suggests finding high ground with a unobstructed view to the west. The comet should be visible about 15 minutes after the sun sets and Tuesday night might be the easiest night to spot it.

"On Tuesday night, a very thin crescent moon will be right by the comet. So that will be a great way to spot it," said Macri.

Just don't confuse airplanes with the comet.

"Unlike airplanes that are going to be moving fairly fast through the sky, the comet will be basically stationary relative to the stars," said Macri.

The good news is, this won't be the only comet of the year. Later this year Comet ISON could provide Earth with a astronomical show we've never seen before.

"Thanksgiving of this year we're going to have Comet ISON which might be so bright that it could be visible during the daytime," said Macri.

While the exact size of Comet Pan-STARRS is unknown, astronomers believe the nucleus of the comet to be several miles wide.

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