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Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

1:10 PM | Comet PAN-STAARS is now viewable as soon as skies cooperate

Paul Dorian

Discussion

Despite today’s thick deck of clouds and rainfall that is associated with a strong cold front, there is a chance that skies will clear enough by early tonight in parts of the Mid-Atlantic region to allow for the viewing of Comet PAN-STAARS in the western sky shortly after sunset. If the comet is not viewable tonight then we’ll have to monitor the cloud cover situation for tomorrow night, but a secondary cold front will make that time somewhat questionable as well in the Mid-Atlantic region with late day clouds and possible showers. It would be nice if the skies would cooperate either tonight or tomorrow night since these two nights will present quite an opportunity for photographers given the fact that the comet will be right near the crescent moon in the western sky shortly after sunset. Thursday evening does promise to have favorable sky conditions although it’ll be quite cold and breezy, and the comet will have moved a bit farther away from the moon by then.

There have been reports that naked eye observation of the comet has been somewhat difficult in the twilight skies so binoculars or small telescopes would certainly be helpful with the viewing. Comet PAN-STAARS should only be visible with the naked eye for another couple of weeks, and perhaps into early April with binoculars and small telescopes. It certainly will be our last opportunity to view this comet as it has a very long elliptical orbit that takes more than 100 million years to complete.