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Travel Agency Offers Flights to See the Pan-STARRS Comet Up Close on March 16

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Mar 05, 2013 10:40 PM EST

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Comet Pan-STARRS streaks through the skies above New Zealand.(Photo : Reuters)

A German travel company is offering a unique travel opportunity to astronomy enthusiasts. They're giving 88 people a chance to take a flight that will get them a close-up view of one or two comets that are expected to pass Earth this year.

According to Reuters, Eclipse Travel in Bonn has teamed up with charter agency Air Partner and Air Berlin to organize a special flight on March 16. This is the date that comet Pan-STARRS is expected to pass through the solar system, 100 million miles from Earth. A comet hasn't presented a good air show since 2007 when Com Boeing 737-700 flight Boeing 737-700 flight et Hale-Bopp passed. Comet 17P/Holmes appeared briefly in 2007.

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Flight AB100, a Boeing 737-700 flight will fly at 36,000 feet to give 88 people on board an amazing view. There are 144 seats on the plane, but the reduced number will ensure than everyone can see from a window.

"If the weather is very good and the air is clear you can certainly see the comet from Earth," Air Berlin's Karsten von dem Hagen, Teamleader Sales Ad Hoc Flights, said in an e-mail to Reuters. "But at an altitude of 11,000 metres you are most likely above the clouds. The air there is thinner, clearer and cleaner, which enables better observation of the comet."

The passengers will be guided by an astronomy expert who will explain what's going on with the comet. NASA says this comet will be visible with the naked eye and will be as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper when it passed through the sky this month. It may leave behind a tail of gas and dust across the sky but there's a chance that the comet's show won't be too impressive if it falls apart under the heat and gravitational pull.

Tickets for the two-hour flight are selling between 359 euros ($468) and 509 ($644) euros on the Eclipse Travel website.

Pan-STARRS is just one of two comets that are expected to pass by Earth this year. The next comet, ISON, is expected to be one of the brightest comets to ever pass by Earth and may be brighter than the moon. It will fly by in November.

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