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Roswell's Best Shots at Viewing Comet PANSTARRS Come Tonight, Tomorrow

Comet visible after sunset throughout March.

Roswell residents' best opportunity to see Comet PANSTARRS may well be tonight, reports NASA - but when the month is out, you're probably not getting a second chance. 

The opportunity to see PANSTARRS only comes along every 100 million years, according to space.com.

PANSTARRS will be be visible in the Northern Hemisphere for about 15 minutes after sunset until the end of March. To see PANSTARRS, look to the west after right after the sun goes down. 

To have the best chance of viewing night sky objects, you'll need to get as far away from local light pollution as possible. Locally, there's the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area or several city parks along Riverside Road and Azalea Drive, including Riverside Park and Azalea Park. Trails and parks are daytime open only, from dawn till dusk, so you'll only get a little while there before it closes. 

Not far away in Atlanta is the Fernback Science Center at 156 Heaton Park Drive. They've got public observatory viewing days on Thursday and Friday, weather permitting.  

On Sunday, Mar. 10, the comet made its closest approach to the sun, about 28 million miles away, which could obscure the view of PANSTARRS until today, Mar. 12, says NASA. But some have said March 13th will be the best day to have a look at the comet.

Comets like PANSTARRS come so close to the sun that they risk breaking apart, but if they survive, they shine brightly.

Scientists say the ability to see a comet without the aid of a telescope usually happens only once every five to 10 years.  In 2013 however, sky watchers may have the opportunity to see two comets with the naked-eye, including PANSTARRS (or Pan-STARRS) and Comet ISON, which will be in our skies this fall.

NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) program finds and tracks objects that could approach earth. NEO discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to the planet. 

Although congress set a deadline of 2020 for scientists to find 90 percent of the near-Earth objects that could cause devastation, the program has been underfunded, reports New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, physicist and former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. 

This article first appeared on Smithfield Patch.

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