“Certainly not a ‘great comet’ by any means,” astronomer Alan Hale, the co-discoverer of 1997’s Comet Hale-Bopp, wrote in a posting to the Comets-ML online forum. “The visibility should hopefully improve over the next few nights as it climbs higher out of the twilight, but I don’t foresee anything spectacular.” So our latest celestial visitor, comet panstarrs, might not be bright as we would have hoped, but maybe here in southwestern desert we will get a good view.
That’s what makes Tuesday’s viewing opportunity so key: On March 12, PanSTARRS should be sitting just to the left of the crescent moon, as indicated in this sky chart from SpaceWeather.com. The moon will thus serve as a guidepost for you to turn your binoculars to the right spot just after sunset. There will be about a 10- to 20-minute window to catch the comet each night starting about March 12 and going through the end of the month. It will get dimmer night after night, so Tuesday is the prime date and experienced amateurs at high elevations with no cloud may get a good view. So go round to your astronomer friend just after sunset and see if you can find it.