Viewing Comet Pan-STARRS: A little tricky


by ANDREW CHUNG / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndrewC_KVUE

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 15 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- For those who have been able to see it, comet Pan-STARRS has been a delightful sight this month.

The comet became visible with the naked eye last week. Since it's moving away from the sun now, the comet will become dimmer and dimmer over the next few weeks.

Astronomer Torvald Hessel, executive director of the Austin Planetarium, says you might be able to see the comet Friday evening.

"...with difficulty. It is visible, so that is the good thing," he said, chuckling.

Hessel says for Friday night - look due west - but wait till the sun has set, and use binoculars.

"The easiest way to find it - the sun is setting at 7:40, and the comet will be just above it. So about 30 minutes after sunset, so around 8 - 8:10, something around that time. It will be close to the horizon as a small fuzzy," he said.

Over the next few nights, the comet will appear more to the right in the western sky, close to the horizon.

Astronomers say it's about every four or five years when comets like Pan-STARRS are bright enough to see with the naked eye.

"It's just interesting to think about it, that it's out there," said Joyce Lynch, president of the Austin Astronomical Society. "We get kinda used to what there is in the galaxy, the planets, the sun, the moons. But every once in a while when something new comes, that's exciting."

In reality, it's not the easiest to locate this comet, but if you see Pan-STARRS Friday night, consider yourself lucky.

A webcast for viewing the comet is available here.