The Pan-STARRS comet, which is viewable with the naked eye, came within view of people in the Northern Hemisphere on March 7. But for those who want to get their best view of the it, the night of March 12 will be your best option.
According to Space.com, one of the optimal viewing nights for Pan-STARRS will be on Tuesday, March 12, because the moon will help those viewing without the aid of binoculars or a small telescope easily find the comet. The comet will only be visible for a limited time around twilight, just after sunset.
The sun has already begun its work on pulling the comet apart. Pan-STARRS made its closest approach to the Sun on March
To find Pan-STARRS, look to the left of the crescent moon. Given a clear sky and an unobstructed view of the horizon, you should be able to see the moon about 10 degrees above where the Sun set minutes before. (This can be measured by taking your clenched fist and extending it before you.) The moon should be a bit to the right and above your clenched fist. Only 1 percent of the moon is visible (a suggestion of a lunar smile on the sky) and might be better seen with binoculars. Once located, however, your eyes should be able to locate it unaided.
The comet should be roughly 5 degrees to the left of your fist (about a half-fist). It will be a bright spot in the sky with a fainter tail pointing upward and a little to the left.
Pan-STARRS isn't the only comet in the 2013 sky. In the Southern Hemisphere, Comet Lemmon has been making an appearance as well. Comet Lemmon was discovered just a year ago by the Mt. Lemmon Survey in Tucson, Ariz. Stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere were able to see both Pan-STARRS and Lemmon together in February and some were able to capture both in photos.
Pan-STARRS itself was discovered only in June 2011 and named after the telescope from which it was discovered, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (or Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii. Like Lemmon, it is a "long period comet," which means it takes quite a long swing around the Sun. Pan-STARRS is estimated to take 100 million years to circuit the Sun.
2013 has become known as the "Year of the Comet" and another comet, ISON, is headed inward from the outer Solar System. ISON has been labeled the "Comet of the Century" because it is expected to get within 800,000 miles of Earth and its cometary trail is expected to be a spectacular show in the November night sky.