In the next couple of days, the 2013 Comet PANSTARRS will make an impressive appearance in the sky as it passes by planet Earth without the threat of a collision. Experts recommend the best dates to watch the bright comet flyby is on March 12 and 13.
"If you look, say 45 minutes after sunset, it will be the width of your hand above the horizon," Detlef Koschny, Head of the European Space Agency's near-Earth object segment, stated.
Astronomers expect Comet Pan-STARRS to shine as brightly as the stars that comprises the Big Dipper constellation which is approximately halfway between the brightest and faintest stars noticeable from planet Earth.
"Pan-STARRS will pass very close to the sun, about 160 million kilometers from Earth, meaning it should be very active, producing a lot of dust and therefore a nice dust tail," said Matthew Knight, an astronomer of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Spectators in the northern hemisphere can catch a view of Comet PANSTARRS in the early evening at the west direction. Experts suggest that these spectators should be in a dark place far away from the big city lights in order to witness the comet's magnificent appearance.
"They will see a fuzzy disk which we call the coma, which is like a little atmosphere around the nucleus of the comet. The coma will be smaller than the full moon but still visibly a disk, not just a point. And then the tail, we hope it will be several diameters of the full moon," Detlef Koschny declared.
However, the excited viewers may end up disappointed since experts claim that the Comet PANSTARRS visibility could quickly disappear. The comet's appearance during its near-Earth flyby depends on its survival from the heat of the sun and its gravitational pull.
"A comet like this one is always an unknown quantity equally capable of spectacular displays or dismal failures. Almost anything could happen," Karl Battams of the US Naval Research Lab stated.
Other comets expected to offer a spectacular view are the Comet Lemmon and Comet ISON. Comet Lemmon will have its closest approach to the Sun on March 24 and become visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere for days.
The Comet ISON appearance will start during October until its closest approach to the Sun on November 28. If Comet ISON survives from the Sun's heat, experts claim it may be brightly visible for months like the full moon with a trail streaking in the sky even during the daytime.
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