Comet Pan-STARRS viewable first part of March

Comet PanSTARRS Images Taken from Washington D.C. area 3/14/13

Panstarrs comet

PanSTARRS image taken from the Washington D.C area 3/14/12



Original Image not enlarged. This gives you an idea if the naked eye view compared to the zoomed in versions. It is small but easily seen with even a small set of binoculars.

Comet Panstarrs

Enlarged Image of Comet PanSTARRS 3/14/13 from Washington D.C. area


Comet Pan-STARRS  will emerge from the Sun’s glare low in the western twilight in early and mid-March of 2013. Unfortunately it will probably not be as bright as it was originally predicted.

Seiichi Yoshida, editor of Weekly Information about Bright Comets, has changed his magnitude formula for Comet PanSTARRS. His new predicted light curve has the comet peaking at only magnitude +3 in early March.

The slightly hyperbolic orbit of PanSTARRS shows  it’ is a new comet from the outer Oort Cloud.   As this happens the comet may brighten significantly as for the first time it’s surface chemicals, currently frozen, vaporize off and form a tail. A new comet from the Oort Cloud is always an unknown quantity equally capable of spectacular displays or dismal failures. This may be the first time it is being warmed by the sun. There is potential for it to put on a good show. “Because of its small distance from the sun, Pan-STARRS should be very active, producing a lot of dust and therefore a nice dust tail,” predicts Matthew Knight of the Lowell Observatory. “However,” he cautions, “it could still be difficult to see.  From our point of view on Earth, the comet will be very close to the sun. This means that it is only observable in twilight when the sky is not fully dark.”

Comet PanSTARRS at 19th magnitude

Comet Pan-STARRS was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System atop the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii. When discovered in 2012 Comet PanSTARRS was only a 19th magnitude. The four discovery images above, were taken 20 minutes apart. They show it moving against the  background stars. These images were taken as part of the Pan-STARRS sky survey, with a 1.8-meter telescope on Hawaii’s Mount Haleakala.
PS1 Science Consortium

On March 10th the comets distance from the Sun will be 0.30 a.u.. This will have a much more significant heating effect on the comet, boiling off the surface chemicals.

See other Astronomical Events this year.


Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. The lights on the distant horizon are from the city of Armadale, which is southeast of Perth. Image credit: Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory


Close-up of comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. Image credit: Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory


In early-mid March look to the west after sunset. You may need Binoculars to pick it out of the sun’s glow (Do NOT look into the Sun!). If you go out to early the sky will be to bright to see it, if you wait to long it will be to low on the horizon. Stay away from trees or buildings. If the skies are clear, and you are away from city light pollution you may be able to see the comet with your bare eyes.

If you take a picture of it contact us and send it we would love to put great pictures on our site!

March 5: Pan-STARRS will be at it’s closest approach to Earth, but not it’s closest approach to the Sun. The tail will not be at it’s brightest. Therefore while it is closest to Earth this is not the peak viewing period.

March 10: The comet will pass closest to the sun. The volatile gases will be at their peak evaporation from the comet. This is what actually forms the tail.

March 12 and 13: The best dates to look for the comet.  Pan-STARRS will emerge in the western sunset sky not far from the crescent Moon.

Good luck and happy viewing!!