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Stargazers can get closer look at comet at Lake Afton observatory

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 8, 2013, at 9:35 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 8, 2013, at 3:06 p.m.

Staff members at the Lake Afton Public Observatory are encouraging people to get a closer look next week at PanSTARRS, the comet visiting our inner solar system.

The observatory will have two programs to see the comet from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, said Robert Henry, the observatory’s program manager. Visitors can use the observatory’s big telescope to see comet features near the comet’s head, he said.

The comet will be visible enough that it can be seen with binoculars, so he suggests bringing your own or using the observatory’s.

The observatory also will open at 7:45 p.m. Friday and March 16 for observation of the comet, which is expected to be visible until about 8:45 p.m., he said. The observatory will stay open until 10 p.m. to allow visitors to look through the telescope at the moon and at Jupiter.

The comet has been visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere, he said, but it’s now moving to where northerners can see it, too.

PanSTARRS won’t be as brilliant as some comets of the past several decades, Henry said. But it will be worth seeing.

It can be seen with the naked eye even if you don’t have time to go to the observatory, he said. He suggested finding an unobstructed view of the western horizon just after the sun sets after 7:30 p.m. The comet tail will be pointed straight up.

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