Comet Pan-STARRS

Comet Pan-STARRS discovered in June 2011 was expected to be a delightful object to watch in March 2013.  However, present indications are that it might not be so.

Comet will pass closest to the sun on March 10th or 11th and will appear above the western horizon.  The comet will be close to the horizon and might be difficult to see with naked eyes.

To observe this comet the good days are 12th , 13th  and 14th of March 2013.  If the sky is clear close to the western horizon one should be able to see the comet, at least using a pair of binoculars.

The March 13th when it will be joined by thin lunar crescent would be the best evening to watch the comet. The Moon will be above the comet but a little towards right. After this day the moon will brighten the sky and one is likely to miss the fainter extension of the comet’s tail.

This comet was discovered by Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (and hence Pan-STARRS) using a 1.8-m robotic telescope atop Haleakala in Hawaii.

The way this comet behaved, that is by becoming brighter then expected after it’s disocvery, the  experts thought that it would become nice spectacle to be seen with the naked eyes but the recent observations indicate that it will not be so.

Comets are known to throw surprises.  Who knows it might still become bright enough to be seen after it’s closest approach to the Sun.

It has been long since we, in India, had a comet that would be enjoyed by general public.  The last one was Comet Hale–Bopp in 1997.  It was dubbed as the Great Comet of 1997.

The map here depicts the position of the comet above the western horizon soon after the sunset.


How are comets named
Conventionally comets are named after the person who discovers it. If there are more then one discoverers then the names of the next two discoverers are also added to the name of the comet. Later astronomers started giving comets a catalogue number.

This comet is called C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS where C stands for comet.  it was discovered in 2001 and the fourth comet to be discovered in the second half of the month of June.  This is its catalogue designation.


In Marathi —

जून २०११  मध्ये शोध लागलेला धूमकेतू पॅन स्टार हा मार्च २०१३ मध्ये एक सुंदर धूकमेतू म्हणून बघायला मिळेल असे वाटत होते पण सध्याची निरिक्षणे हे दर्शवतात की हा धूमकेतू म्हणावा तितका आकर्षक असणार नाही.

१०-११ मार्च रोजी हा धूमकेतू सूर्याच्या जवळून जाईल आणि आपल्याला तो पश्चिम क्षितीजावर नुसत्या डोळ्यानी दिसण्याची शक्यता आहे.

साधारण १२, १३ आणि १४ मार्च रोजी सूर्यास्तानंतर जर पश्चिम क्षितीजाजवळ ढग किंवा धुक नसेल तर कमीत कमी छोट्या दुर्बिणीतूनर तरी तो दिसेल.

हा धूमकेतू नेमका कुठे दिसेल त्या साठी हा नकाशा वापरावा.


हा धूमकेतू बघण्या करता १३ मार्चची संध्याकाळ जास्त चांगली असेल कारण त्या दिवशी चंद्रकोर या धूमकेतूच्या उजव्या बाजूस आणि किंचित वर असेल. पण त्या नंतरच्या येणाऱ्या संध्याकाळी चंद्र प्रकाशाची तीव्रता वाढत जाईल आणि धूमकेतूच्या शेपटीच्या शेवटचा मंद भाग आपल्याला दिसायला खूप अवघड जाईल.

या धूमकेतूचा शोध Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response Systemच्या (आणि त्या वरून याचे नाव Pan-STARRS)   1.8-m व्यासाच्या रोबोटिक दुर्बिणीने लावला होता. ही दुर्बिण हवाई बेटातील हेलिकला शिखारावर आहे.

शोध लागल्या नंतरच्या निरिक्षणातून असे दिसून येत होते की हा धूमकेतू चांगला प्रखर होईल इतका की तो आपल्याला नुसत्या डोळ्यानाही सहज दिसेल.  पण गेल्या काही आठवड्यात घेतलेल्या निरिक्षणातून अस दिसून येत आहे की हा म्हणाव तितका प्रखर होणार नाही.


About skytonight

I am the present Director of Nehru Planetarium of Nehru Centre Mumbai, India I like to talk about astronomy and sky observations to general public.
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