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Passing comet offers dramatic night sky viewing

March 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A comet called Pan-STARRS was visible over the western horizon Tuesday night.

Tuesday night offered the best chance to see the comet. The comet was visible right next to the crescent moon, making for a gorgeous view.

Discovered in 2011, Pan-STARRS is making its first-ever cruise through the inner solar system. It passed within 100 million miles of Earth last week.

Next week, the comet should be easier to spot. It will be higher in the western sky and therefore visible for longer once the sun sets. The surrounding darkness, versus twilight, will make it stand out if the sky is clear.

Pan-STARRS was visible for weeks from the Southern Hemisphere before popping up on the upper half of the globe in recent days.

Pan-STARRS, an ice ball, passed within 28 million miles of the sun Sunday, its closest approach to our star and within the orbit of Mercury.

The comet's name is actually an acronym for the telescope in Hawaii used to discover it two years ago: the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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