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Comet PanSTARRS (C/2012 K1) has been steadily brightening over the last few months and is now visible with small telescopes and large binoculars (e.g.15x70s or 20x80s). For most of June, the comet is well placed for observation in the early evening sky from the Northern Hemisphere and tropics. It's also visible from the Southern Hemisphere, but more difficult since it's lower down.

PanSTARRS was discovered on May 17, 2012 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) located on the island of Maui in Hawaii. At discovery, it's apparent magnitude was a feeble +19.7 and it was located 8.7 AU (1.3 billion kilometres or 800 million miles) from the Sun, 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

PanSTARRS is currently moving in a southwestern direction. At the beginning of June, the comet shone at magnitude +8.3 and was located at the southwest corner of Ursa Major. On June 7th, PanSTARRS then crossed the border into the small faint constellation of Leo Minor where it remains until June 22nd. On this date, it enters Leo and remains there for the rest of the month. It's estimated that PanSTARRS will have brightened slightly to magnitude +8.1 during this time. This puts the comet easily within the range of small telescopes and large binoculars, although too faint to be seen with the naked eye.

For Northern Hemisphere observers, PanSTARRS appears fairly high in the sky towards the west just after sunset during the first three weeks of June. However, as the month closes in the comet will become increasingly more difficult to spot as it battles against the bright twilight sky. From equatorial regions during June, PanSTARRS is well placed but from southern temperate latitudes it always appears low down towards the northern sky.

PanSTARRS will round the Sun on August 27, 2014 (date of perihelion) after which it switches to the morning sky. It's expected to reach maximum brightness of about magnitude +6.0 in October 2014; at the limit of naked eye visibility but easily seen with 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars.

The finder chart below shows the positions of PanSTARRS from June 9 to July 27, 2014.

Comet PanStarrs (C/2012 K1) Finder Chart from June 9 to July 27, 2014

Comet PanStarrs (C/2012 K1) Finder Chart from June 9 to July 27, 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 (C/2012 K1) PanSTARRS Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
01 Jun 201410h 46m 56s42d 19m 16s8.31.653Ursa Major
02 Jun 201410h 43m 38s41d 52m 37s8.31.664Ursa Major
03 Jun 201410h 40m 27s41d 25m 50s8.31.676Ursa Major
04 Jun 201410h 37m 23s40d 58m 59s8.31.687Ursa Major
05 Jun 201410h 34m 27s40d 32m 04s8.31.698Ursa Major
06 Jun 201410h 31m 37s40d 05m 08s8.31.710Ursa Major
07 Jun 201410h 28m 54s39d 38m 12s8.31.721Ursa Major
08 Jun 201410h 26m 18s39d 11m 19s8.21.733Leo Minor
09 Jun 201410h 23m 47s38d 44m 29s8.21.744Leo Minor
10 Jun 201410h 21m 22s38d 17m 45s8.21.756Leo Minor
11 Jun 201410h 19m 03s37d 51m 06s8.21.768Leo Minor
12 Jun 201410h 16m 49s37d 24m 34s8.21.779Leo Minor
13 Jun 201410h 14m 41s36d 58m 10s8.21.791Leo Minor
14 Jun 201410h 12m 37s36d 31m 54s8.21.803Leo Minor
15 Jun 201410h 10m 38s36d 05m 48s8.21.814Leo Minor
16 Jun 201410h 08m 43s35d 39m 51s8.21.826Leo Minor
17 Jun 201410h 06m 52s35d 14m 04s8.21.837Leo Minor
18 Jun 201410h 05m 06s34d 48m 28s8.21.849Leo Minor
19 Jun 201410h 03m 24s34d 23m 03s8.21.860Leo Minor
20 Jun 201410h 01m 45s33d 57m 48s8.21.871Leo Minor
21 Jun 201410h 00m 10s33d 32m 45s8.11.882Leo Minor
22 Jun 201409h 58m 38s33d 07m 53s8.11.893Leo Minor
23 Jun 201409h 57m 10s32d 43m 12s8.11.904Leo
24 Jun 201409h 55m 45s32d 18m 43s8.11.915Leo
25 Jun 201409h 54m 22s31d 54m 25s8.11.926Leo
26 Jun 201409h 53m 03s31d 30m 18s8.11.936Leo
27 Jun 201409h 51m 46s31d 06m 23s8.11.946Leo
28 Jun 201409h 50m 32s30d 42m 39s8.11.956Leo
29 Jun 201409h 49m 20s30d 19m 07s8.11.966Leo
30 Jun 201409h 48m 10s29d 55m 45s8.11.976Leo
01 Jul 201409h 47m 03s29d 32m 33s8.01.985Leo
02 Jul 201409h 45m 58s29d 09m 32s8.01.995Leo
03 Jul 201409h 44m 55s28d 46m 42s8.02.004Leo
04 Jul 201409h 43m 53s28d 24m 01s8.02.012Leo
05 Jul 201409h 42m 54s28d 01m 30s8.02.021Leo
06 Jul 201409h 41m 56s27d 39m 08s8.02.029Leo
07 Jul 201409h 40m 60s27d 16m 56s8.02.037Leo
08 Jul 201409h 40m 05s26d 54m 52s8.02.045Leo
09 Jul 201409h 39m 12s26d 32m 57s7.92.053Leo
10 Jul 201409h 38m 20s26d 11m 10s7.92.060Leo
11 Jul 201409h 37m 29s25d 49m 30s7.92.067Leo
12 Jul 201409h 36m 40s25d 27m 58s7.92.073Leo
13 Jul 201409h 35m 52s25d 06m 33s7.92.080Leo
14 Jul 201409h 35m 04s24d 45m 14s7.92.086Leo
15 Jul 201409h 34m 18s24d 24m 01s7.82.091Leo
16 Jul 201409h 33m 33s24d 02m 55s7.82.097Leo
17 Jul 201409h 32m 49s23d 41m 54s7.82.102Leo
18 Jul 201409h 32m 05s23d 20m 57s7.82.107Leo
19 Jul 201409h 31m 23s23d 00m 06s7.82.111Leo
20 Jul 201409h 30m 41s22d 39m 18s7.82.115Leo
21 Jul 201409h 29m 60s22d 18m 35s7.82.119Leo
22 Jul 201409h 29m 19s21d 57m 55s7.72.122Leo
23 Jul 201409h 28m 39s21d 37m 18s7.72.125Leo
24 Jul 201409h 27m 60s21d 16m 43s7.72.127Leo
25 Jul 201409h 27m 21s20d 56m 11s7.72.130Leo
26 Jul 201409h 26m 43s20d 35m 41s7.72.131Leo
27 Jul 201409h 26m 05s20d 15m 12s7.62.133Leo
28 Jul 201409h 25m 27s19d 54m 44s7.62.134Leo
29 Jul 201409h 24m 50s19d 34m 16s7.62.134Leo
30 Jul 201409h 24m 13s19d 13m 48s7.62.135Leo
31 Jul 201409h 23m 37s18d 53m 20s7.62.134Leo
01 Aug 201409h 23m 00s18d 32m 51s7.62.134Leo
02 Aug 201409h 22m 24s18d 12m 21s7.52.133Leo
03 Aug 201409h 21m 48s17d 51m 49s7.52.131Cancer
04 Aug 201409h 21m 12s17d 31m 15s7.52.129Cancer
05 Aug 201409h 20m 37s17d 10m 38s7.52.127Cancer
06 Aug 201409h 20m 01s16d 49m 57s7.52.124Cancer
07 Aug 201409h 19m 25s16d 29m 13s7.52.121Cancer
08 Aug 201409h 18m 50s-16d 08m 24s7.42.117Cancer
09 Aug 201409h 18m 14s-15d 47m 30s7.42.113Cancer
10 Aug 201409h 17m 39s-15d 26m 31s7.42.109Cancer
11 Aug 201409h 17m 03s-15d 05m 26s7.42.104Cancer
12 Aug 201409h 16m 27s14d 44m 14s7.42.098Cancer
13 Aug 201409h 15m 51s14d 22m 55s7.32.092Cancer
14 Aug 201409h 15m 15s14d 01m 28s7.32.086Cancer
15 Aug 201409h 14m 39s13d 39m 52s7.32.079Cancer
16 Aug 201409h 14m 03s13d 18m 08s7.32.072Cancer
17 Aug 201409h 13m 27s12d 56m 14s7.32.065Cancer
18 Aug 201409h 12m 50s12d 34m 09s7.32.057Cancer
19 Aug 201409h 12m 14s12d 11m 53s7.32.048Cancer
20 Aug 201409h 11m 37s11d 49m 25s7.22.039Cancer
21 Aug 201409h 10m 59s11d 26m 45s7.22.030Cancer
22 Aug 201409h 10m 22s11d 03m 51s7.22.020Cancer
23 Aug 201409h 09m 44s10d 40m 43s7.22.010Cancer
24 Aug 201409h 09m 05s10d 17m 21s7.21.999Cancer
25 Aug 201409h 08m 27s09d 53m 42s7.21.988Cancer
26 Aug 201409h 07m 48s09d 29m 47s7.11.976Cancer
27 Aug 201409h 07m 08s09d 05m 34s7.11.964Cancer
28 Aug 201409h 06m 28s08d 41m 03s7.11.952Cancer
29 Aug 201409h 05m 47s08d 16m 12s7.11.939Cancer
30 Aug 201409h 05m 06s07d 51m 01s7.11.926Cancer
31 Aug 201409h 04m 25s07d 25m 28s7.11.912Cancer