Comet to soar over Israel

Israelis will have an opportunity during sunset, sunrise to see a comet, called Panstarrs C/2011 L4, pass through the skies.

star observatory 311 (photo credit: Mika Schik)
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 Astronomical Association.
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.
Just before 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.”
Already this 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 drops.
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.