Comet Pan STARRS To Light Up The Sky In March, Astronomers Announce

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It may not be quite the 'Comet of the Century' predicted to light up the sky later this year, but it could still be spectacular.

A comet that shines as brightly as the stars of the Big Dipper will pass in front of the Earth in March.

The Comet Pan-Starrs will pass through our solar system at about 100 million miles from the Earth, Nasa scientists have said.

cometpanstarrsmarch2013

Above: how to spot the comet

How comets react to the sun is difficult to predict. Researchers think it may either fall apart - and put on a short, "dazzling" show - or else slowly combust, producing a long bright tail in the process.

Either way the comet looks set to dazzle astronomers - and possibly anyone looking at the night sky with the naked eye - when it completes its journey from the outer reaches of the solar system.

"Because of its small distance from the sun, Pan-Starrs should be very active, producing a lot of dust and therefore a nice dust tail," said astronomer Matthew Knight of the Lowell Observatory in a release.

The comet was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System.

Meanwhile the Comet Ison is expected to shine even more brightly when it passes close to the Sun in November.

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