Finding the Comet

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17P-skyzoom-071026.jpg

Comet 17P/Holmes remains excitingly bright, and the shell of dust from its recent outburst is now large enough to be seen with the unaided eye -- it no longer looks at all like a star.

I took these photos back on Saturday, when the comet was still quite condensed, but as you can see in the upper image, there is distinct fuzziness even in a very low-zoom photo. (The stars appear as short lines because the camera was stationary for this shot, so the sky moved by a few arcminutes, comparable to the width of the comet's coma.)

Below, a wide-angle view of the sky looking northeast an hour or so after sunset. Very lightly processed to de-emphasize the Moonlight flooding the sky (the full Moon was hiding right behind the dome at bottom). Near the center of the image you'll recognize the triangle from the top photo, where the lower left object is the comet. At the very bottom is the brilliant white star Capella -- if you're looking for the comet under city lights, start by finding that. Even in the most light-polluted areas, it should be possible to spot this comet with binoculars (I'm looking at you, readers in New York).

Tonight the Moon doesn't rise for several hours after sunset, so the evening should be quite reasonably dark. Since we've got clear skies here, I plan to take the telescope for another spin, even despite the cold I'm battling.

17P-sky-071026.jpg
Comet Holmes in Perseus as seen from the roof of the Physics Building here. Click either photo for a larger version.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on October 31, 2007 3:57 PM.

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