The best opportunity to see Comet PANSTARRS in Florida may well be tonight, reports NASA—but when the month is out, you're probably not getting a second chance.
The opportunity to see PANSTARRS only comes along every 100 million years, according to space.com.
PANSTARRS will be be visible in the Northern Hemisphere for about 15 minutes after sunset until the end of March. To see PANSTARRS, look to the west right after the sun goes down.
To have the best chance of viewing night sky objects, you'll need to get as far away from local light pollution as possible. A trip to the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier might be in order, or maybe along Anna Maria Island.
On Sunday, Mar. 10, the comet made its closest approach to the sun, about 28 million miles away, which could obscure the view of PANSTARRS until today, Mar. 12, says NASA. But Dave Huestis at RI's Sycrapers stargazing club says March 13 will be the best day to have a look at the comet.
Comets like PANSTARRS come so close to the sun that they risk breaking apart, but if they survive, they shine brightly.
Scientists say the ability to see a comet without the aid of a telescope usually happens only once every five to 10 years. In 2013 however, sky watchers may have the opportunity to see two comets with the naked-eye, including PANSTARRS (or Pan-STARRS) and Comet ISON, which will be in our skies this fall.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) program finds and tracks objects that could approach earth. NEO discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to the planet.
Although congress set a deadline of 2020 for scientists to find 90 percent of the near-Earth objects that could cause devastation, the program has been underfunded, reports New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, physicist and former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
Know of a good place to watch the comets in Bradenton? Let us know in the comments!