Comet streaks past Earth in closest-ever approach

A recently discovered comet buzzed came within 160 mn kilometres of Earth.

Written by PTI | Washington | Published:March 6, 2013 3:25 pm

A recently discovered comet made its closest-ever approach to Earth yesterday,as it buzzed past within 160 million kilometres of our planet,and it will now be visible to skywatchers in Northern Hemisphere.

The Comet PanSTARRS would be visible to the naked eye in Northern Hemisphere from tomorrow,when it will rise very low near the west-southwest horizon about a half hour after sunset,Space.com reported.

The comet has been exclusively visible in the Southern Hemisphere since its discovery.

The comet,which is passing through the inner solar system this month,is known officially as comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS). It was discovered in June 2011 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System,or PanSTARRS telescope,in Hawaii.

“To see it,you will need an unobstructed,cloudless view of the western horizon. It is best to pick a dark spot,away from streetlights,” according to a statement by the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

“To see the comet’s tails,you may need a pair of binoculars,” it said.

The comet will be as bright as a first-magnitude star when it makes its closest approach to the Sun on March 10.

“March 13 may be the best time to take an interesting picture of the comet because on that evening,it will appear just below the thin crescent moon,” the university’s statement said.

In the last week the comet has put on a sudden surge in brightness,getting noticeably brighter each day.

The comet will continue to slowly get higher and shift slowly toward the west-northwest part of the sky during the middle and later part of March,also becoming gradually dimmer as it pulls away from both the Sun and the Earth.

Comet ISON,discovered last year by astronomers in Russia,is also speeding towards the Sun and is expected to outshine the Moon briefly in November,visible even in daylight.

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