Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chasing Comets

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova


Once again, stargazers around the globe feel glad to be visited by this short period comet and since it is approaching its perihelion, it is becoming bright enough to be chased with binoculars.

Tonight, after the sunset I decided to take my binoculars and escape in my motorcycle to a green zone in the southern limits of the city, only 10 minutes from my home. Venus was at about 15°above a mountain (about 20° over the horizon) so I still had a chance to find the comet. The totally clear sky foretolled an easy star hop from Venus to the zone where the comet was supposed to be, right below the sleepy goat, Capricornius.

With the sky still clear I promptly started my quest from Venus. From there I jumped to η Cap, then 15 Cap and landed in a triangle made by 10 Cap (and its companion HIP101040), 11 Cap and 12 Cap A. From there I moved to the left and I knew I was in the zone. HIP101090, a bright orange star in the FOV wanted to steal the show, but at 19:30, with the last solar glance leftovers, the first 8th and 9th magnitude stars started to show up. Right diagonal of three very dim stars I could catch a stellar like and very dim object. I knew it was the comet by comparing it with my Stellarium mobile map, but it was still subtle and only seen with averted vision. Then I started to sketch the area and the sky became darker and darker until the darkeness peaked at about 20:00hrs. It was not as dark as I thought it will be, but it let me see stars of 5th magnitude with just my eyes. I gave the comet a last view before I sketched it and it was like a very shy blurry point with some even dimmer fuzz around.

Now, the comet can be seen in binoculars, but it is predicted to reach maximum brightness  in early January.


Comet season has begun!!!


Merry Christmas,



LG.


Edited by Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief).

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