Throughout March, Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) shone low in the western sky after sunset. Many observers glimpsed its coma (the gaseous envelope that surrounds the comet’s head) with just naked eyes. Many more saw it through binoculars and telescopes. In April, the comet gets higher each evening, even as it fades in brightness while receding from the Sun.
So far, Comet PANSTARRS has hit every prediction related to its brightness. It arrived at perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun), on the evening of March 9 in North America. It appeared most brilliant — with a total magnitude of –1.0 — at that point, when it stood approximately 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) from our daytime star.
For complete coverage of Comet PANSTARRS, visit www.astronomy.com/panstarrs.