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Favorable Weather to Catch Passing Comet

This week’s local weather forecast couldn’t be better to catch some rare comet-watching.

Don Carona at the A&M Observatory says look for the Pan-STAARS comet under the crescent moon as the sun sets below the horizon.

Carona says there is a 30 minute window to see the comet each evening this week, with Tuesday being the best night.

DonCarona031113.mp3WTAW’s Bill Oliver visits with Don Carona.

News release courtesy of Texas A&M University:

Heads up from Texas A&M University astronomers regarding Comet PanSTARRS, which will be visible to the naked eye as it zips through the skies over Bryan-College Station and the northern hemisphere starting this week.

Don Carona, manager of the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy Teaching Observatory, advises scanning the western horizon for the hurtling celestial body of ice and rock roughly 30 minutes after sunset, noting it should blaze brightest during the next few days.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good comet that could be observed in the sky without a telescope or good binoculars,” Carona said. “Especially one with a tail that is as prominent as this comet’s.”

The most recent similarly prominent example Carona recalls was Hale-Bopp in 1997 — the most distant comet ever discovered by amateurs as well as the brightest since Comet West in 1976.

Carona recommends a pair of binoculars or a wide-field telescope and viewing the comet from anywhere west of the Bryan-College Station city lights and looking west with an unobstructed view.

“I would imagine that around Lake Bryan from a higher elevation would be nice,” he said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of public land going west from Bryan and College Station. So be careful of private property.”

The comet is named after the entity that discovered it, the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope And Rapid Response System) project, using a 1.8-meter telescope at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy. Though the comet became visible in the northern hemisphere this week, it has been observed throughout the southern hemisphere for several months.

PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. Image credit: Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory, from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/comet20130307.html

PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. Image credit: Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory, from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/comet20130307.html

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Posted by on Mar 11 2013. Filed under Featured Stories, News.


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