Comet to be visible here

On the evening of March 13, people in St. Mary Parish will have an opportunity to a see a sight that they will have to wait 110,000 years to see again.

The Comet Pan-STARRS C/2011 L4 will be most visible in the area from 7:30 p.m. to 8:14 p.m. March 13 when the comet will be above the horizon, said Ken Stage of the St. George Observatory in Schriever. “What makes the 13th so unique is the position of the comet being perpendicular to the horizon,” Stage said.

At 7:30 p.m., the comet will be 11 degrees above the horizon. Therefore, the head of the comet, called the coma, will not touch the horizon until 8:14 p.m., he said.

The best place to view the comet in St. Mary Parish is Burns Point on the coast, Stage said. “As they look over Vermillion Bay, they’ll simply have a flat horizon,” he said.

It will be difficult to see the comet in areas where there are tall trees or buildings, he said.

For anyone wanting to photograph the comet, people should use a wide angle lens and hold down the shutter for three and a half seconds. “You’ll have an absolutely fantastic image,” he said.

Stage will be traveling to Cocodrie to get a good view of the comet because of the low marsh grass and absence of obstructions.

The comet is making its first trip toward the sun and is covered with virgin ices, meaning it has never experienced solar radiation and solar wind, he said.

The moon will look like it is in the tail of the comet, but this will just be an illusion, Stage said. The moon will be in the foreground, 240,000 miles from earth, and the comet will be 105 million miles from earth, he said.

Stage said photos of the comet will be posted on St. George Observatory’s Facebook page after the event.

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