Comet PANSTARRS Captured in Chile
The Comet PANSTARRS is a new comet discovered by the Pan STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii in June 2011, and is expected to come into view in Japan around March 10.
The comet was photographed with a 300-mm telephoto lens and a single-lens reflex camera at 21:00, February 27 (Chilean Time) at the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 2900 m asl. It was found at the location of Sculptor, showing its characteristic beautiful tail. [Photographed by Tsuyoshi Sawada]
The Comet PANSTARRS will become visible in Japan after perihelion passage on March 10. From around this day, the comet will appear in the westward sky after sunset and from late March to early April, it will be observable twice a day in the westward sky after sunset and in the eastward sky before sunrise. However the observation condition is not ideal because the comet is always close to the Sun and can only be seen at a very low altitude.
Some of the ALMA observation proposals will target the Comet PANSTARRS. Comets are made of ice and rocks and assumed to contain substances whose composition has not changed a lot from the early stage of the solar system. Amino acids have also been found in the comet dust. It is expected that observations of comets will lead to further understanding of the formation and evolution process of the solar system.