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Comet Panstarrs 2013 Peak: When and Where to Watch

Also known as Pan-STARRS, the year's first comet could be a spectacular show.

Comet Pan-STARRS (also known as Comet Panstarrs), a glob of ice and dust from the heavens, will be closest to Earth Tuesday, and you may just be able to catch a glimpse in the skies over Alexandria.

The quality of the Panstarrs show is in doubt: The comet was discovered only in 2011, and whether it'll generate spectacular fireworks or become a dud remains to be seen.

Its bright dust tail might be visible to the naked eye, though some have suggested using binoculars (but only after sunset so not to injure the eyes) to see it. 

Second Chances March 10, 12 and 13

If the clouds Tuesday night (due to the coming snowstorm) block your view, another date to spot the comet might be March 10 when the comet will be closest to the sun, according to Space.com. You'll get another chance March 12 and 13.

Also, unlike most meteor showers, the comet should be most visible not in the darkest hours of the night or morning, but at twilight. In Virginia, we're at a disadvantage because of all the light pollution surrounding us and the coming snowstorm expected to hit Alexandria Tuesday evening.

There are more tips for viewing on this video of Panstarrs.

Comet Panstarrs was discovered in June 2011 and is named Pan-STARRS for the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, the telescope that was used in its discovery.

Interested in astronomy? The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club meets in Annandale, and the Washington Area Astronomy Meetup group has events coming up this spring. 

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