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March 11, 2013

Research & Collections

By this weekend, we may have an opportunity to see one of two bright comets likely to pass through our planetary neighborhood this year. The first one, comet PANSTARRS, starts its Northern Hemisphere arrival March 8-10, continuing through mid-March. This will be the ONLY time anyone on Earth will see PANSTARRS (or, less-affectionately,  C/2011 L4); as it is a non-periodic comet, it may never return again.

Comet PANSTARRS was discovered in June, 2011 and named after the telescope used for its discovery, Pan-STARRS (an acronym for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System), located near the summit of Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii.

Until now, PANSTARRS has been gracing the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, but will be coming our way in mid-March with a small viewing window about 15 minutes after twilight over the Western Horizon. Its closest approach to Earth will be on March 10, when it travels at a…

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