Friday, 10 April 2015

Comet C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) reaches its perihelion.

Comet C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) reached its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) on Tuesday 7 March 2015, when it was 3.46 AU from the Sun (i.e. 3.46 times the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun). The comet is visible only with a fairly good telescope, and currently can be seen only from the Southern Hemisphere, where it can be seen in the constellation of Scutum. On 8 April 2015 it will move into the constellation of Aquila, and from 15 April it will be possible to see it from both hemispheres. On 20 June it will reach its closest to Earth, when it will be 2.59 AU away from us (i.e. 2.59 times as distant as the Sun), and at its brightest and most visible (though it will still need a good telescope to see it). From here it will move into Sagittarius on 1 September and Capricorn on 22 November, with its visibility slowly fading as it grows more distant from Earth.

C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) observed on 2 April 2015. The comet is the point at the center of the picture; the elongate objects are stars, with the elongation being caused by the long exposure needed to take the photograph and the movement of the telescope to track the comet. Jean-Francois Soulier/Seiichi Toshida's Homepage.

C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) was discovered on 16 March 2012 by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope. The name C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) implies that it is a non-periodic comet (C/) (all comets are, strictly speaking, periodic since they all orbit the Sun, but those with periods longer than 200 years are considered to be non-periodic), that it was the third comet (comet 3) discovered in the second half of March 2012 (period 2012 F), and that it was discovered by the PANSTARRS telescope.

The path of C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) through the inner Solar System. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) has an unknown orbital period and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 11.4° to the plain of the Solar System, that brings it to 3.46 AU from the Sun at perihelion (346% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, considerably outside the orbit of Mars); the aphelion of the comet (i.e. its maximum distance from the Sun) has not been calculated.

See also...

Comet C/2014 Q1 (Lovejoy) reached its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) on Friday 30 January 2015, when it will be 1.29 AU from the Sun (i.e. 1.29 times the average distance at which the...


Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) passed the Earth at a distance of 0.56 AU (i.e. 56% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, about 84 million km) on Thursday 28 August 2014. This is not a close approach (it is further than the distance between Mercury and the...


Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) will reach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun)  on Wednesday 27 August 2014, though it will not be visible...



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