Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Comets and more comets

Tonight was a milestone for me. I saw another comet. Now, that might not be big news for some, but it is for me.

Tonight I observed the comet 17P/Holmes, a small comet located in the constellation Perseus. This was an unplanned observation, but one I couldn't turn down. See, normally this comet is way below "normal" visibility. It takes a large telescope to see it. However, yesterday the comet brightened unexpectedly by a factor of 500,000 times! It went from "need a big scope" to "naked eye" visibility in a super outburst rarely seen. Sure, comets have outbursts, but nothing like this.

So I went out and was able to see it easily in the northeastern sky. It looked starlike, and to the uninformed they wouldn't notice anything different, but I had a sky chart for the comet, and it was easy to see that the constellation Perseus had an "extra" star.

So I got to see it, and I took a few photos. And the big news for me - it was the fiftieth (50th) comet I've seen in my years as an astronomer.

Cool, eh?

No comments: