The Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa will hold a free comet-viewing event on Tuesday March 12, 6:30–7:30 p.m. at Magic Island’s picnic area 36. Stargazing will follow comet viewing.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4, discovered by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakalā in June 2011, is expected to become visible to the naked eye in Hawaiʻi in March. The comet is currently visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but is too far south to be seen in Hawaiʻi.
Comet viewing tips for the month
- From about March 7, the comet will appear above the horizon in Hawaiʻi. To see it, you will need an unobstructed, cloudless view of the western horizon. It is best to pick a dark spot, away from streetlights. Look in the direction of the sunset just after the sun has gone down. The comet will be just above the horizon.
- March 13 may be the best time to take an interesting picture of the comet because on that evening, it will appear just below the thin crescent moon.
- The twilight sky will make the comet much harder to see than if it were high up in a dark sky, and moonlight will interfere with viewing the comet after March 13. To see the comet’s tails, you may need a pair of binoculars.
- By the end of March, the comet will no longer be visible in the evening sky. However, if you get up early enough, you may be able to see it in the eastern sky just before sunrise. By then, the comet will be farther from both the sun and Earth, and will appear fainter.
—Adapted from a UH Mānoa news release