Comet PANSTARRS visible this week - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Comet PANSTARRS visible this week

Courtesy:  Dale Cunningham - Surprise, AZ Courtesy: Dale Cunningham - Surprise, AZ
Courtesy:  NASA Courtesy: NASA
PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

Comet PANSTARRS won't come around again for another 100,000 years, so if you're interested in catching this astronomical spectacle, this is your week.

Although you may have seen PANSTARRS Sunday or Monday evenings, the comet is expected to be at its brightest on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Our weather will be perfect for viewing.

"You'll be able to see it with your naked eye.  It'll be near the moon, and you can see it even better with binoculars," said Evan Scannapieco, assistant professor at ASU's School of Earth & Space Exploration.

The comet will be in the western sky shortly after sundown.  It will look like a small, bright exclamation point.

"For this particular comet, it's your only chance to see it," Scannapieco said.

Unlike an asteroid or meteor, which is mostly made up of rock, this comet is made up of an ice and rock mixture.  Think of it as a big, dusty snowball roughly 15 miles wide.  As it gets closer to the sun, some of it melts, creating the "tail" of the comet.

"If you look with binoculars, there are two tails actually.  One is dust and one is gas," said Scannapieco.

And if the recent meteor in Russia has you concerned that this comet may be a little too close for comfort, there's no need to worry.

"It's much, much further away.  It's about as far away as the sun, so it's a 100 million miles away.  Not a threat to us at all, we're certain it's not going to come anywhere near us," added Scannapieco.

PANSTARRS won't be the only comet out there in 2013.  Another even brighter comet will be in our skies come late November.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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