MAGIC ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of people gathered at Magic Island on Tuesday night, hoping to catch a glimpse of the comet PANSTARRS. Software developer Larry Denneau was part of the team that discovered the celestial body in 2011, using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala.
"We tracked it for a few days and got follow up observations and then realized it could be a special comet one that come really close to the sun and the Earth, bright enough to see with our naked eye," said Denneau, who works for the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy.
The institute invited people to the park to view the comet, which is basically a dirty snowball.
"It's a bunch of bits of rocks held together by ice, basically. It's leftover from the formation of the solar system, so they're way out where it's cold and as they come in they heat up and evaporate, and that's what we see," explained Roy Gal of the UH Institute for Astronomy.
Henry Weiland of the Hawaiian Astronomical Society brought his telescope, hoping to snap a few photos.
"Everything in the heavens really intrigues me, especially when something is coming this close to Earth," said Weiland.
People scanned the western horizon, looking for any sign of the comet. In the end, only a few were able to capture it on camera.
"I was worried this morning cause it was overcast, but as I saw the clouds were clearing, I was more hopeful," said McCully resident Tom Quach.
Most in the crowd left without seeing the comet, but they're hoping to try again in the coming days.
"I just had my little binoculars and the one cloud that's there was situated just really poorly for all of us here. So unlucky," said Denneau.
"It was very, very faint. I was only able to see it probably for about five seconds," said Weiland.
The comet will still be visible this month, but it will become fainter as it travels farther away from Earth.