Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 13 best day to watch Pan-Starrs

Citizens will get a chance to witness comet Pan-Starrs, which will pass closest to the sun on March 10. Experts say that the evening time on March 13 will be the best time to watch the comet though it will not be visible to the naked eye. The last time a comet seen in India was in 1997, almost 15 years ago, when comet Hale-Bopp came close to the western horizon. It was dubbed the Great Comet of 1997.

Arvind Paranjpye, director of Nehru Planetarium said, "The comet will pass closest to the sun on March 10 or 11 and will appear above the western horizon. The comet will be close to the horizon and might be difficult to see with naked eyes."

Comet Pan-Starrs was discovered in June 2011 and is now expected to appear in March. It is estimated that March 12, 13 and 14 are good days to watch it. Paranjpye said, "If the sky is clear, astronomy enthusiasts will be able to watch the comet with the help of good binoculars when it comes close to the western horizon."

"On March 13, the comet will be joined by the thin crescent of lunar and that would be the best evening to watch the comet. The moon will be above the comet, but a little towards the right of the horizon. After March 13, the moon will brighten the sky and one is likely to miss the fainter extension of the comet's tail," he added.

This comet was discovered by Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-Starrs), using a 1.8-m robotic telescope atop Haleakala in Hawaii. Hence the comet is called Pan-Starrs.

Paranjpye said that after the discovery of the comet, it became brighter and going by its behaviour, experts said that it could be seen with naked eyes when it comes closer to earth. "However, the recent observations indicate that it will not be possible to watch it with naked eyes and binoculars will be a must."

However, Paranjpye pointed out that there could be some surprise in store. "Who knows it might still become bright enough to be seen after its closest approach to the sun."

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