The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Enid Features

March 10, 2013

Comet's best showing to be Tue., Wed.

Early this week, a bright new star will grace the western sky just after sunset.

Except this isn’t a star at all — it’s a comet.

Comet C/2011 L4 Pan STARRS, a rocky ball of dirt, gas and dust, was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, located atop Hawaii’s Haleakala volcano, according to NASA.

Last Tuesday, the comet passed to within 100 million miles of Earth, its closest approach to the planet.

The icy body originated from the Oort Cloud, a gathering of rocky, dusty bodies in orbit trillions of miles from the sun. Every once in a while, debris orbiting in the Oort Cloud will get drawn out pulled in on a path toward the sun.

The visibility of the comet in Enid’s night sky remains a mystery, because it’s newly discovered. It could become bright enough to see with the naked eye, or it could simply remain a speck against the inky backdrop of the March night sky.

“It’s going to be here ... but it’s (going to be) close to the sun. I don’t know how well it’s going to be visible in our location,” said Bob Killam, director of Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s observatory.

In his most recent astronomy column, Killam said the comet will be visible to the naked eye through the end of the month, but viewers will need a good, dark location, looking west an hour after sunset.

“If (the comet) does show a tail, it’s going to be perpendicular to the horizon,” Killam said.

Tuesday and Wednesday will the best days to see it, as the comet will continue its trek through the solar system.

The comet has been visible for weeks from the Southern Hemisphere.

California astronomer Tony Phillips said the comet’s proximity to the moon will make it easier for novice sky watchers to find it. Binoculars likely will be needed for the best viewing, he said, warning onlookers to avoid pointing them at the setting sun.

“Wait until the sun is fully below the horizon to scan for the comet in the darkening twilight,” Phillips advised in an email sent from his home and observatory in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Comet Pan STARRS won’t be the only such object to grace Enid’s skies this year. In November, comet ISON is expected to make a close pass to Earth; it may even come close to outshining the moon.

That particular comet was discovered last September by Russian astronomers and got its name from the International Scientific Optical Network.

Neither Pan STARRS nor ISON pose a threat to Earth, scientists said.

Entertainment Editor Joe Malan and AP aerospace writer Marcia Dunn contributed to this story.

Text Only
Enid Features
Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
House Ads