Almost anybody in the world can identify one or two stars or planets in the sky from frequent observing, but how many people can say that they’ve seen a comet? These heavenly bodies are composed of rock, ice, and frozen gases. The reason for their freezing composition is due to the fact that some reside over 100,000 AU (92.96 trillion miles) away from the sun. Comets that orbit our sun travel in elliptical orbits. When they come as close to the sun as Earth’s orbit, the dust and gases start to heat up and form a tail of debris behind it; this is the “dust tail”. The charged particles emitted from the sun create a “plasma tail”. There can be many instances in which we can witness the nucleus (main body) or the tail of a comet.
The most obvious example is when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet. The debris left over enters our atmosphere and creates a marvelous meteor shower for us. One of the most popular events is around August 12 when the Perseids light up the sky. Can’t wait until then? Then grab your binoculars and turn to the constellation Aquarius.
The Greek myth of Aquarius states that Zeus picked this handsome, well-mannered man to serve drinks in his court. He often traveled with Zeus and his eagle Aquila on their adventures. One day the boy saw that the people of Earth were in a serious drought and needed water. After conversing with Zeus, he was allowed to send down rain and become known as Aquarius the god of rain. Most of the water carrier can be found in the sky before dawn, as early as 3:00 am, in the eastern sky.
The comet can be found halfway down, between his leg and his flowing water, today. This comet will constantly be moving toward the south as it reaches its closest position to Earth in June. This faint, fuzzy ball might seem insignificant, but understanding the rarity of the object can help in the admiration of it.
This object that originated in the outer reaches, beyond Pluto, is traveling at over 100,000 miles per hour past our tiny planet in the universe. Comets are theorized to be the beginning of life on Earth. In the unstable beginning years of the universe, comet and icy asteroid impacts were very common. These impacts might have delivered the necessary icy materials that have now become our oceans. Looking at this comet could give you the opportunity to look back in time to the beginning of Earth’s history. The 7.4 billion people on this planet could have once begun as the gaseous elements and ice found on PanSTARRS (C/2013 x1).
Additionally, while looking into Aquarius, the planet Neptune can be seen through binoculars. By looking in the same vicinity of the comet, more north, we can see our most outer planet of our solar system.