C/2011 L4 (Panstarrs)

Comet C/2011 L4 (Panstarrs), is a non-periodic comet discovered in June 2011, that is expected to be visible to the naked eye when it is near perihelion in March 2013. An estimate in October 2012 predicted the comet might brighten to magnitude -4 (roughly equivalent to Venus). In January 2013 there was a noticeable brightening slowdown that suggests the comet may only brighten to magnitude +1 but during February the brightness curve showed a further slowdown of Magnitude at perihelion around +2.5/+3.0. Comet C/2011 L4 probably took millions of years to come from the Oort cloud. After leaving the planetary region of the Solar System, the post-perihelion orbital period is estimated to be about 110 000 years.

Path of comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) through the inner solarsystem.

March 5, 2013. Comet C/2011 L4 (Panstarrs) passes closest to Earth at 1.10 Astronomical Units, (AU). One AU equals one Earth-sun distance, about 150 million kilometers. In other words, this comet will pass slightly farther from us than our distance from the sun.

March 10. The comet passes closest to the sun as close as our suns innermost planet, Mercury at 0.30 AU or about 45 million kilometers. Comets are typically brightest and most active around the time they are closest to the sun when solar heating vaporizes ice and dust from the comets outer crust. Not only will the comet quickly brighten, but it should also develop the long classic comet dust tail.

Throughout March 2013. The comet could be visible in the Northern Hemisphere evening sky low in the west after sunset. It will move northward each evening during arch 2013 as it moves from being in front of the constellation Pisces to being in front of the constellations Pegasus and Andromeda. At this time, the comet might have a bright dust tail, and perhaps visible to the unaided eye or binoculars.

Visibility of comet C/2011 L4 (Panstarrs) during March (situation at 18:00UT).

April 2013. No matter how bright it gets in March, the comet will surely fade as April arrives, as it moves away from the sun and back out into the depths of space. But it will be located far to the north on the skys dome and will be circumpolar for northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. That means it might be visible somewhere in the northern sky throughout the night for northern observers


14-03-2013 @ 18:56 UT, Canon 1100D + 80mm F/1.4 @ F/2.8 (Exposuretime is 3.2 sec. @ 400ISO)

© Copyright Rob Kantelberg
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