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Comet PANSTARRS just peeked its head over our western horizon - remember to look for it.

Swinging northward now, Comet PanSTARRS emerges above the western sunset horizon this week for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes. It's 2nd magnitude or perhaps a little brighter, but it's low in twilight. Look due west about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. The comet should be brightest around now, since it's passing closest to the Sun this week and is also barely past its closest to Earth (on March 5th). On March 12th through 14th the crescent Moon will help point the way, as told below.


Comet PANSTARRS will be fainter than expected - DRAT!

I searched for it a long time last night - did not see anything. I hear today it will be fainter than expected....

I'm still hopeful. 

See the continuing updates at


"In spite of various claims in recent weeks that the comet had suddenly begun to brighten rapidly, such was never the case. PanSTARRS' behavior has been very normal and uneventful since the beginning of the year.

"Now at its peak brightness, between +1.5 and +2.0 and passing its closest to both Sun and Earth, the comet will shortly begin a long, slow episode of fading as it retreats from the inner solar system. The comet's dust tail, seen so far only as a stubby appendage, should begin to apparently lengthen as the comet moves away from the brightest region of twilight.

"However, the tail is unlikely to attain spectacular proportions because of its almost perfectly side-on presentation to us, resulting in a low surface brightness. While comet dust tails can often be very broad, they are thin in cross section, making the density of PanSTARRS' tail very low from our current perspective. Long-exposed images of the comet in about 2-3 week will reveal far greater tail lengths than anyone will be able to detect visually. 


I am just going to say it - clouds are EEVVVIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLL!

Clouds clouds clouds - there is a comet in the sky and we can't see it because of clouds!

Excuse me while I growl and shake my fist at the sky...

This is what Comet PANSTARRS would look like if we could see it.

I almost saw it weds night - the clouds opened up - I went inside to put on some heavier clothes because it was cold - when I came back - I took too long, about 8 minutes - a thick bank of clouds had come in and covered the horizon with gray opacity - dang! Go away clouds, there's a comet in the sky.

In silhouette against the colorful evening twilight glow, clouds part in this much anticipated magic moment. The scene captures naked-eye Comet PanSTARRS peeking into northern hemisphere skies on March 12. The comet stands over the western horizon after sunset, joined by the thin, flattened crescent of a day old Moon. Posing for its own beauty shot, the subtly lit dome of the 4.2 meter William Herschel Telescope is perched above cloud banks on the Canary Island of La Palma. While PanSTARRS has not quite developed into the spectacular comet once hoped for, it is still growing easier to see in the north. In coming days it will steadily climb north, farther from the Sun into darker western evening skies

YAAYYYYYYY! I saw PANSTARRS, and it was faint but NICE!

Wonderful - we had a clear sky tonight, and after some patient waiting for the right light balance, I did finally see the visiting comet. I had to walk a bit to find a high spot, trees were obscuring the view, but, it was very pretty, and it;s such a visceral pleasure to see one with your own eyes - or in this case binoculars, it really benefits from having a pair of binoculars.

It's tail is faint and short but very visible with binocs. It's head looks like a fairly bright star, or even a planet, in the light from the setting sun. It's a bit further to the north than I expected, and I saw it around 8:10 pm.

If you like comets, or wonders of nature, it's worth your time to try to find it. It's supposed to be cloudy tomorrow, but, I'm going to keep trying to see it over the next few days.

What I saw was something like this - but clearer of course, prettier definitely, with good binoculars. The comet above a bare winter treeline:

Comet Panstarrs
Taken by Ari Koutsouradis on March 14, 2013 @ Westminster, MD, USA

Or a bit like this - because there was still a cloudy glow from the sun:

Taken by Joe Thomassen on March 13, 2013 @ Point Clear, Alabama USA 

Here's a nice photo of the crescent moon and the comet from a few days ago - too cloudy here to see it. 

 Comet PanSTARRS and Moon, March 12, 2013

Greg Mort in Ashton, Maryland, was one of many who caught the comet and Moon on the evening of March 12th. He used a 100-mm lens and 2.5-second exposure.

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