star observatory 311.
(photo credit: Mika Schik)
For the next couple of weeks, Israelis will have an opportunity during sunset
and sunrise to see a comet soar through the skies.
The comet, called
Panstarrs C/2011 L4, will pass by on Monday – as it did on Sunday – at sunset
and a little after, visible on the right side of the setting sun, explained Dr.
Igal Patel, head of the Givatayim Observatory and chairman of the Israeli
Panstarrs began to be visible last week during
sunset and this week will remain so to the naked eye as the sun goes down. Next
week binoculars will be required to see it at that time.
sunrise on Tuesday, however, the comet will also theoretically become visible
and will become increasingly visible as the sun rises at the beginning of next
week, Patel said.
Panstarrs C/2011 L4’s orbit brought it closest to the
sun on March 11 at 5:29 a.m.
Israel time, at a distance of 45 million
kilometers, and reached maximum proximity to the Earth on March 5 – about 164
km. away, Patel explained.
“Every day now it is going farther from the
sun, so you have more time to see the comet passing,” Patel told The Jerusalem
Post on Sunday. “But on the other hand, it is going away from the sun, so when
the distance is decreasing it will be less magnificent.”
weekend, Patel said that people were able to see the comet at sunset, in the
form of a bright spot with a little tail.
Comets are technically “bodies
of dirty ‘water-ice’ with many particles of dust and gas,” only a few kilometers
wide, he explained. Once the dirty ice gets close to the sun, the heat causes
the water to evaporate, releasing the gases stuck among the water
The released gas, in turn, forms the huge halo that becomes
visible to the eye, Patel noted.
Once the weather clears up on Tuesday,
Patel said he expected the comet to be much more easily visible.