Public invited to MSU observatory to view comet

Date(s) - 03/15/2013
7:00 pm-9:00 pm

Mississippi State University


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STARKVILLE, Miss.–Mississippi State is opening the doors to its observatory twice this month for public viewings of the comet PANSTARRS as it enters the Northern Hemisphere.

From 7-9 p.m. March 15 and 20, the university’s E.I. Howell Observatory will be open for seeing the celestial traveler discovered in June 2011.

The Howell Observatory is located on MSU’s South Farm, just south of campus. Inclement weather will cancel the viewing.

The comet’s name is an acronym for the Hawaii-based telescopic survey that found it: Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System.

Even though PANSTARRS is not very bright and will appear quite low on the western horizon, the observatory’s 14-inch telescope should provide a relatively unobstructed view to the southwest and enable viewers to appreciate details of the icy dirtball.

“The comet is visible to the west at sunset for about an hour,” said Angelle Tanner, assistant professor of astronomy. “The telescope will remain open until 9 p.m.”

To reach the observatory, turn south off Blackjack Road at the Stone Boulevard intersection (just east of the College of Veterinary Medicine), then travel on Stone Boulevard Extended for two miles. Follow the signs to the observatory site.

For more information, contact Tanner at 662-325-4112 or To learn more about MSU’s physics and astronomy department, visit