MILLEDGEVILLE — The first of two comets heading toward the sun this year made its closest approach to Earth last week, and today local residents have a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse.
Sky watchers in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see comet Pan-STARRS for weeks at twilight, even without binoculars or a telescope.
“Observers in the Southern Hemisphere say the comet can be seen with the naked eye even through city lights,” said Dr. Donovan Domingue, professor of physics and astronomy at Georgia College. “It is believed that the comet could become even brighter when it moves into the skies of the Northern Hemisphere during the middle weeks of March.”
According to an Associated Press article, the recently discovered comet, thought to be billions of years old, originated in the distant Oort cloud, which was a cloud of icy bodies well beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto. Somehow it got propelled toward the inner solar system.
“Although this visitor has been on his way to see us for millions of years, we’re fully prepared to welcome Pan-STARRS presence into our home,” said Domingue.
The Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy at Georgia College will host a special viewing event at the observatory on the rooftop of Herty Hall today from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.
“Everyone is invited to join us and share in the experience. This is a rare event that won’t come around again,” Domingue said.
With the use of the observatory’s binoculars and a possible view from the observatory telescope, the public will be able to witness Pan-STARRS' visit to skies of the North Hemisphere.
“It’s sure to be a one of a kind experience,” said Domingue.
For more information call planetarium astronomer Dr. Donovan Domingue at (478) 445-3512 or planetarium coordinator Dr. Agnes Kim at (478) 445-2989.
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