No telescopes needed. A comet making a close pass by Earth this week should be visible to the naked eye. When it fades from view in April, we won’t see it again for at least 110,000 years.
Discovered in June 2011, comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) has been visible for a few weeks from the southern hemisphere using small telescopes or binoculars. It is now moving into northern skies and will be seen there just after sunset starting on 7 March.
The comet should brighten and become visible to unaided eyes as it makes its closest pass by the sun on 10 March. It comes direct from the Oort cloud, so its billowing gases may offer a glimpse of pristine material from the edge of our solar system.
The comet serves as a herald for C/2012 S1 (ISON), a super-comet set to outshine the full moon in November.
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