Town Creek Indian Mound will host a series of comet-watching parties in March. The comet named “Pan-STARRS” will be visible to the naked eye next month, and the viewing parties will be held for a full week, from Sunday, March 10 to Saturday, March 16 at the Town Creek State Historic Site near Mount Gilead.
The comet’s name comes from the powerful Pan-STARRS telescope that was used to discover it. The Pan-STARRS scope is a project of the University of Hawaii, and is located on Mount Haleakala on the island of Maui. The university says the telescope’s “combination of relatively small mirrors with very large digital cameras results in an economical observing system that can (scan) the entire available sky several times each month.”
Pan-STARRS includes a gigapixel digital camera that takes hundreds of photos each night. The main goal of the project is to identify and track “Near Earth Objects”, or NEOs, such as asteroids, meteors and comets that may pose a danger to the planet.
Comet Pan-STARRS was discovered in June 2011, and its brightness is expected to peak in early March as it makes its closest approach to the sun, or perihelion, on March 10.
There is no cost for the comet-watching events, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. each evening, March 10 through 16, at Town Creek Indian Mound. More information is available at 910-439-6802 or online at towncreekindianmound.com.