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Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)

Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) on June 6, 2011. It was then located between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. Only intrinsically bright comets could be picked up at such great distance.

On March 5, comet Pan-STARRS will be closest to the Earth, passing us only 1.1 astronomical units away. 5 days later, it will pass through its perihelion and attain maximum brightness of magnitude 2. Regrettably, the comet is not favourably located for observers in Hong Kong. At dusk, the comet is less than 10 degrees from the horizon. On March 12 and 13, you may try to look for the comet near the western horizon after sunset. Or you may try in early April when it travels further north and barely rises above the north eastern horizon before dawn. However, it will only be shining at magnitude 5 then, which means a pair of binoculars is necessary to observe it.

Photo courtesyˇGLuis Argerich

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The 1.8m telescope of Pan-STARRS project

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Finder chart for C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) Note: comet tail not to scale