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Visitor from the Cosmos

Douglas Howard of the Westminster Astronomical Society scans the sky through a pair of binoculars looking for comet Pan-STARRS during Thursday's comet Pan-STARRS viewing party at the Finkburg Library branch March 14, 2013.
Douglas Howard of the Westminster Astronomical Society scans the sky through a pair of binoculars looking for comet Pan-STARRS during Thursday's comet Pan-STARRS viewing party at the Finkburg Library branch March 14, 2013. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Dedicated sky watchers were able to catch a glimpse of a rare cosmic spectacle as the comet Pan-STARRS was visible in the sky over Carroll beginning around March 10. According to NASA's website, comet Pan-STARRS is named after the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System - the telescope atop the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii that discovered it in June 2011 and is making its first visit to the inner solar system. Locally, the comet was visible low in the western sky just after sunset, and was just barely bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. On March 14, the Westminster Astronomical Society held a comet Pan-STARRS viewing events at the Carroll County Public Library branches in Finksburg, Westminster, Hampstead, Taneytown and Mount Airy. The comet should remains visible through binoculars low in the western sky after sunset, but is growing progressively dimmer as it moves away from the sun. According to NASA's website, another much brighter comet, called ISON, will appear in the sky in November 2013 and could shine as brightly as the full moon in broad daylight.

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