07 November 2007

Comety goodness!

Tonight I saw Comet Holmes through a telescope. The last time I've seen any comet through a telescope was Haley's Comet way back in the 80's, in my childhood. I missed both Hale-Bopp and Hyukatuke (sp?) in the mid 90's somehow.

Check out the Wikipedia page on Comet Holmes. Scroll down a couple screens to "Location in 2007" and you'll see a nice finding chart - it's in Perseus, currently North of the left "arm" of the π shape that I see in it. It's clearly visible to the naked eye - I was in a brightly lit city, on campus near some lights, and I still was able to point it out to people who are NOT experienced observers. First find the stars of Perseus, and then you'll realize that one of the North-most stars is actually a bit fuzzy, and that's it.

Through a telescope it resolves into a HUGE fuzzy blob - bigger than planets, bigger than the Ring Nebula, bigger than Andromeda, maybe as big as the space between H and Χ Perseus. (Use the biggest diameter telescope you can, lowest power.) With some careful studying and averted vision you'll be able to see that the brightest center section is elongated (left/right in my tele's field of view, I think East/West actually), it's surrounded by a glowing cloud, and one edge of the cloud is crisp/sharp and slightly brighter (right in my field of view, I think the East edge) while the opposite edge fades away, presumably into the tail. There are no bright stars in the same field of view; focus while looking at a dim star, and keep your eyes on it to view the comet most easily.

It's just amazing. Go look at it, naked eye, binoculars, tele, whatever. The thing is exploding, this's probably its last pass around the Sun. (If it somehow survives, it'll be back in a scant 7 years.)

1 comment:

Candace said...

Z - congratulations, you won! (see mah blog) :)