Comet may be Brighter than Originally Expected in March 2013

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By Patrick Comins on November 3, 2012, 8:44am Last modified: November 6, 2012, 9:42am

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(Comet Lovejoy on December 22, 2011 at the European Southern Observatory at Paranal.  Photo by G. Blanchard( 

There is some bright news for a change.  When Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) was first analyzed, it was expected to be as bright as magnitude 0 or -1 (not quite as bright as Sirius) when it reached perihelion (closest approach to the sun) in March 2012.   On October 23rd though, astronomer Jose Pablo Navarro Pina announced that he had recalculated the brightness curve for the comet and now expects it to reach magnitude -4 when it graces our skies next March. This is as bright as the planet Venus!

Although it was originally expected to be very bright by comet standards, the low elevation above the western horizon would likely have made viewing difficult through the fading glare of the sun.   At the recalculated brightness though, it should be an easy naked eye object and perhaps be a spectacular sight as it slowly rises above the twilight into late March.   The comet will eventually rise well into the nighttime sky as it pulls away from the sun and fades, but this added brightness should provide an extended period of naked eye viewing.  It may still be visible to the unaided eye and/or an easy binocular object as it passes very close to the Andromeda Galaxy in early April:

Of course, comets are quite unpredictable and can ultimately disappoint or exceed expectations.  We will likely just have to be surprised come March, as the comet will be hidden from our view by the glare of the sun until that time.  

But wait, Panstarrs is just the opening act, another, even brighter comet is on the way for November, 2013, Comet ISON (C/2012 S1).  This second comet may be as bright as any seen in history.    For more information on ISON, please see my earlier article here: 

For an amazing time-lapse of another horizon hugger in the Southern Hemisphere  Comet Lovejoy, please see this (to see the best effect, set to full screen viewing):

You can keep up to date on both comets on Facebook here:

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Patrick Comins

Town: Meriden, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since September 2012.

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