Comet Pan-Starrs is finally making its debut in the skies of the northern hemisphere. For Houston, the timing couldn't be better. Sky conditions will be perfect for seeing the comet in the western sky as we head through this week.
For best viewing, look low in the western sky, near the horizon, shortly after sunset (in the Houston area, sunset will be near 7:40 p.m.). The comet will dip below the western horizon shortly after sunset, so it will only be visible in the early evening. Try to stay away from city lights, which will tend to drown out the faint comet. A pair of binoculars will also be helpful.
The comet will be visible through the month of March. However, because it is traveling away from the sun, its tail will begin to fade over time and viewing will become steadily more difficult. This week provides the best opportunity to get a good look at it.
With clear skies over the next few evenings, we don't have to worry about clouds getting in the way of our comet-gazing. Evening temperatures will be dipping into the 50s over the next few days, so a light jacket will come in handy if you're outside looking for it.
If you happen to snap a picture of Pan-STARRS, make sure you share it with us. You can email your photos to email@example.com.
If you happen to miss Comet Pan-STARRS while it's paying a visit, there's another, much brighter comet set to swing through our neighborhood in November. It is comet ISON, and it's supposed to be brighter than the full moon! For astronomy enthusiasts, it should be an absolutely spectacular show!