The Grand Portage Reservation is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Air Quality Program has many ongoing projects in order to maintain healthy indoor and outdoor air. These projects include monitoring for regional haze and particulate matter, indoor air quality, invasive plant removal, public outreach, environmental education, alternative energy, and climate change.

Friday, February 8, 2013

2013: Year Of The Comet?

2013 is looking like it will be a notable year for comets, with two predicted to become bright enough to see with the naked eye and one of them may be spectacular.
Photo: Comet McNaught

First up is the appetizer, comet PANSTARRS (an acronym of the telescope that found it) which will be visible in the western sky soon after sunset in mid-March. Hopefully it will brighten enough to be seen without binoculars, but comets are notoriously unpredictable. Follow the link for sky charts and more information.

 This is only a teaser, though, because the big show coming in the fall is the huge sungrazing comet ISON. This comet is thought to be making its first trip into the inner solar system, so it may give off a spectacular tail as it rounds the sun in November. If it survives its close encounter with the sun intact it should shine as bright as the full moon and be visible in daylight. Northern hemisphere viewers will be well-placed for seeing the show as the projected path through the sky takes it near the north celestial pole meaning you will be able to see it all night long here in Grand Portage.

Astronomers around the world are crossing their fingers that this one is sizzle not fizzle, but being that it is already showing a tail and it is still outside the orbit of Jupiter I hope the optimists are right and ISON will become known in history as the Great Comet of 2013.

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