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Comet PanSTARRS (C/2012 K1) has now passed perihelion and is once again visible in the morning sky. The comet made its closest approach to the Sun on August 27, 2014. On this date it passed approx. 1.05 AU (157 million kilometres or 98 million miles) from the Sun; a similar distance to that of the Earth/Sun.

Discovery

PanSTARRS was discovered using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) telescope located near the summit of volcano Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui. At discovery, the comet was very dim (mag. +19.7) and located 8.7 AU (1.3 billion kilometres or 800 million miles) distant, far beyond the orbit of Jupiter and almost as distant as Saturn.

Comet PanStarrs (C/2012 K1) imaged on May 5, 2014 (Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona)

Location and star chart

During October, the comet appears high in the sky before sunrise from equatorial and southern latitudes. It started the month heading in a southwesterly direction through the largest constellation of all Hydra. On October 3rd, PanSTARRS crossed into Puppis where it remains for the rest of the month.

It's predicted that the comet will hover around magnitude +6.5 during October and therefore within the range of binoculars and small telescopes. On October 23rd, PanSTARRS wanders through open cluster Collinder 135 (Cr 135), also known as the Pi Puppis cluster. This small grouping consists of four stars, all of which are visible to the naked eye. The brightest component is Pi Pup, an orange supergiant star of mag. + 2.73.

From mid northern latitudes, PanSTARRS is also visible but only for about the first three weeks of the month and nowhere near as well placed; it appears low down towards the southern sky during morning twilight.

The finder chart below shows the positions of PanSTARRS from October 10 to October 24, 2014.

Comet PanStarrs (C/2012 K1) Finder Chart from October 10 to October 24, 2014

Comet PanStarrs (C/2012 K1) Finder Chart from October 10 to October 24, 2014 - pdf format

C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) Data (at epoch August 11, 2014)

NameC/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS)
TypeComet
DiscovererPan-STARRS telescope
Discovery dateMay 17, 2012
Perihelion (AU)1.05452
Eccentricity1.00021
Orbital period (years)unknown, but estimated to be at least 800,000 years
Inclination (degrees) 142.428
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)317.738
Perihelion August 27th, 2014

Comet (C2012/K1) PanSTARRS Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
Oct 01, 201408h 31m 40s-11d 05m 22s6.61.351Hydra
Oct 02, 201408h 29m 53s-11d 57m 54s6.61.331Hydra
Oct 03, 201408h 28m 00s-12d 52m 00s6.61.311Hydra
Oct 04, 201408h 26m 02s-13d 47m 43s6.61.291Puppis
Oct 05, 201408h 23m 58s-14d 45m 06s6.61.272Puppis
Oct 06, 201408h 21m 48s-15d 44m 12s6.51.252Puppis
Oct 07, 201408h 19m 31s-16d 45m 05s6.51.233Puppis
Oct 08, 201408h 17m 06s-17d 47m 45s6.51.215Puppis
Oct 09, 201408h 14m 34s-18d 52m 17s6.51.196Puppis
Oct 10, 201408h 11m 52s-19d 58m 40s6.51.178Puppis
Oct 11, 201408h 09m 02s-21d 06m 58s6.51.160Puppis
Oct 12, 201408h 06m 02s-22d 17m 10s6.51.143Puppis
Oct 13, 201408h 02m 51s-23d 29m 16s6.51.126Puppis
Oct 14, 201407h 59m 29s-24d 43m 16s6.51.109Puppis
Oct 15, 201407h 55m 54s-25d 59m 07s6.41.094Puppis
Oct 16, 201407h 52m 06s-27d 16m 46s6.41.078Puppis
Oct 17, 201407h 48m 03s-28d 36m 09s6.41.064Puppis
Oct 18, 201407h 43m 45s-29d 57m 09s6.41.050Puppis
Oct 19, 201407h 39m 09s-31d 19m 38s6.41.037Puppis
Oct 20, 201407h 34m 16s-32d 43m 26s6.41.024Puppis
Oct 21, 201407h 29m 03s-34d 08m 21s6.41.013Puppis
Oct 22, 201407h 23m 29s-35d 34m 08s6.41.002Puppis
Oct 23, 201407h 17m 33s-37d 00m 32s6.40.992Puppis
Oct 24, 201407h 11m 12s-38d 27m 11s6.40.984Puppis
Oct 25, 201407h 04m 26s-39d 53m 45s6.40.976Puppis
Oct 26, 201406h 57m 12s-41d 19m 48s6.40.969Puppis
Oct 27, 201406h 49m 30s-42d 44m 53s6.40.963Puppis
Oct 28, 201406h 41m 17s-44d 08m 31s6.40.959Puppis
Oct 29, 201406h 32m 33s-45d 30m 10s6.50.956Puppis
Oct 30, 201406h 23m 16s-46d 49m 16s6.50.954Puppis
Oct 31, 201406h 13m 27s-48d 05m 16s6.50.953Puppis