Attention, sky gazers: 2013 is forecast to be a good year for comets, and one of the A-list celebrities is due to appear this week.
Comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS, other than confirming that comets get assigned odd names, is said to be worth a look in North America starting on or near March 7.
Space.com offers viewing tips and predicts March 10 to be the best date for the masses to view the comet anywhere in the Northern Hemipshere.
Time magazine, meanwhile, quotes an astronomer who picks next Tuesday or Wednesday (March 12 or 13) as prime viewing times. From the Time report:
California astronomer Tony Phillips said the comet’s proximity to the moon will make it easier for novice sky watchers to find it. Binoculars likely will be needed for the best viewing, he said, warning onlookers to avoid pointing them at the setting sun.
“Wait until the sun is fully below the horizon to scan for the comet in the darkening twilight,” Phillips advised.
Other news reports make indicate the comet will appear as a small blob of light, not some night-piercing fireball, low on western horizon.
Astronomers consider PanSTARRS significant. Sky and Telescope reports that viewing, even with the naked eye, should be good though not as impressive as once forecast.
A 2004 photo of Comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT). (Photo: NASA)
The website EarthSky.org offers an everything-you-need-to-know guide to the comet's passing, and NASA has produced the following video overview of earth's encounter with Comet PanSTARRS:
Comet C/2012 S1 (also known as Comet ISON or Comet Nevski-Novichonok) is generating even more buzz for its anticipated arrival around Thanksgiving. It has the potential, some comet-watchers speculate, to make a big splash in the night sky if it survives a close brush with the sun in late November. Some suggest it may even be viewable in daylight.
Observers in the Southern Hemisphere, meanwhile, have enjoyed good views of Comet C/2012 F6/Lemmon last month and into March. In addition, this list from cometchasing.skyhound.com offers details on any comet activity visible anywhere on the planet.
Readers attracted to nighttime phenomenon such as comets less for their scientific attributes and more for the interesting visuals they create might enjoy taking a gander at an online gallery of aurora photography from Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
Note: This post was updated with additional content at 1:20 p.m. PT on March 6.