Manila, Philippines – One of two comets that will pass close to Earth this year will be bright enough to be seen by the naked eye on March 10, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said yesterday.
In its astronomical diary, PAGASA said comet Pan STARRS (C/2011 L4) will become brighter as it passes through perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) within the orbit of Mercury on March 10. It will be closer to the Earth than Mercury, the nearest of seven planets to the Earth.
It can be seen in the western horizon after sunset. “It will be a fine binocular object and may become a bright comet that may be seen by the naked eyes,” it said.
Engineer Dario dela Cruz, chief of the Space Sciences and Astronomy Section of the PAGASA, said the comet will appear like a stationary star. “Facing the western horizon, one can have a very good view of the comet right after the Sun sets,” he said.
“It can be visible as early as March 1. The comet’s illumination gradually increases before reaching its nearest approach to the Sun on March 10, by then its brightness eventually decreases,” he added.
Dela Cruz pointed out that the comet’s flyby will not cause interruption to satellite communication.
He explained that a comet is different from an asteroid because of their composition. While an asteroid is made up of metals and rocky material, comets are made up of ice, dust, and rocky material.
Dela Cruz added that asteroids are formed closer to the Sun, while comets are formed farther from the Sun. (Ellalyn B. de Vera)
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