Rare Bright Comet to Light the Night Skies in March


March 8, 2013

Media contact: Mary Lynn Norton





Rare Bright Comet to Light the Night Skies in March


Rock Hill, SC For the first time in years, a comet will be close to the limit of visibility to the unaided eye from the Northern Hemisphere.  The Museum of York County and Carolina Skygazers astronomy club will be attempting to observe comet PanSTARRS on several evenings in March.  To improve the view, telescopes will be available to magnify the comet and other objects in the sky.  Since the comet is only up for a brief time at sunset and a viewing location with an unobstructed view of the western horizon is necessary, the observing site will be the northwest corner of the Academy Sports parking lot, located at 2468 Cross Pointe Dr. in Rock Hill, SC.


Three dates are planned to coincide with events in the sky:

March 13: Comet PanSTARRS will be near the moon.

March 17: The moon and Jupiter will be very close.

March 23: Comet PanSTARRS will be highest above the horizon.

Each event is open 7:45 – 8:15 p.m.  Participation is free!  If there are clouds in the sky on any of these evenings, that observing will be canceled.


Comets are basically chunks of ice from the edge of our solar system.  When comets get close to the sun, its heat starts to vaporize the ice.  A cloud forms around the comet and some of the vapor and dust is pushed away from the sun.  This is what forms the comet’s coma and tail.  Toward the end of this year, astronomers are hoping that an even brighter comet, named ISON, will become visible.


The current position of comet PanSTARRS will be shown during programs presented Tuesday – Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the Settlemyre Planetarium at the Museum of York County with a more in-depth discussion of comets during Carolina Skies shown at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.  A NASA video about the comet is also being shown during museum hours on a monitor outside the planetarium entrance.


For more information on comet PanSTARRS, visit this site:



The Museum of York County is located at 4621 Mt. Gallant Road, Rock Hill.  Admission Cost:  Adults, $5; Seniors, $4; Youth, $3; Free for CHM members and children 3 and under.  www.chmuseums.org