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This comet is neat in so many ways: Discovered by a 19-year-old student from photos taken by the Taiwanese Lulin Observatory, it has two tails, is green, orbits in the reverse direction of the rest of the Solar System objects, and is on its first visit to the Inner Solar System from its home in the Oort Cloud!

Wow! Here's an image of it:

Click the image to see the story.

Tonight it passes closest to Earth, within 0.41 AU (38 million miles, or less than half the Earth-Sun distance), though it's just about as close for a few days before and after - until the Moon begins to interfere. You'll find it with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope between Saturn and the star Regulus, about magnitude 5. It's high up by late night, directly overhead at about 1:30am. Here's a map:


Click the image to see the more on how to find the comet.

It's supposed to be clear here in Kansas tonight... I'm still deathly ill, but this only happens once in the lifetime of a sequoia!

Best,
Chris

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( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
ryltar
Feb. 25th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
I think I am going to go steal some Binocs from my parents tonight :)
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Neat, good luck!
ryltar
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:39 am (UTC)
queza7 and I went to look for it. We tried using my camera/binocular combo (8X30 with 1.3MegaPixel cam) but we couldn't positively ID it. It may just have been too early but we have class tomorrow morning.


Erica's note: I saw a distinctively green blur in one of the binocular pics, although ryltar doesn't believe me that we saw it, took a pic of it, and didn't realize it til later. ^^
gsemones
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:51 am (UTC)
Awesome Chris! I'm way out in Missouri countryside on a hill right now, I'll keep an eye out. Thanks!
gsemones
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
Clouds moved in. Have to check at 9
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Good luck!
scottedelman
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)
I was out and thought I saw it—but I could just be fooling myself!
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
Could be! Is it really dark where you live? Magnitude 5 is visible to the naked eye, but a comet is pretty diffuse, so it'll be tough to see without aid in most places.
scottedelman
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Oh, definitely! In fact, when I read in Sky and Telescope that—

"In a very dark, unpolluted, natural night sky—such as few people see any more—the comet is dimly visible to the unaided eye."

—I thought—that's me! I'm one of those "few people." I'm in the wilds of West Virginia, between two ridges. There were thousands of stars out there tonight!

But when you see a smudge where there's supposed to be a comet, who can be sure?
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
I'm jealous! And that's so awesome. I live in town - albeit one with a relatively dark sky - but I'm going to assume I need optical aid. Anyhow, I want to photograph it ;-)
scottedelman
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
I wish I knew how! I'm not that sophisticated a photographer, I'm afraid. But I'm lucky—I get to see the Milky Way quite often.
kijjohnson
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Okay, this is one of those moments when I know I am a lucky, lucky girl. I don't have a day job, so I can drive out to eastern Washington tomorrow or Thursday night, where there won't be any clouds or ambient light. So what time of night (PST) do I look, and where in the sky do I look? Assume that some of us don't know where Leo is in the sky, or Saturn for that matter.
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
Um, let's see... Saturn is right overhead in Kansas now, so in a couple of hours out there.
kijjohnson
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:53 am (UTC)
!!

Tomorrow! I meant tomorrow! :)
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
That works, too. About twenty-six hours from now, then.

(I blame the fever-addled brain.)

:(|)

So tempted to drag out the telescope. It's not that cold (47°F), and it's clear out there.
kijjohnson
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
So 10pm tomorrow night. Where's Leo? I guess I could just go to their website...
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
Yup, I recommend the websites I linked....
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:06 am (UTC)
Oooh, or this one: http://www.sky-map.org/
kijjohnson
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
Yay!

I'm sorry you're sick, hon.
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Me too.

Oh, by the way, I just checked my planisphere, and Gemini is overhead right now, not Saturn in Leo. Two hours from now (plus 24) is the time to look! Do you have binoculars? You'll likely need that. And you'll probably be able to see Saturn in the same field of view!

Edited at 2009-02-25 04:13 am (UTC)
kijjohnson
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
No, tomorrow! I have little field glasses, is all.
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
Those will work fine. Have fun! And don't forget to look at Saturn, too; it's right nearby, and in those glasses you should be able to see its largest moon, Titan, as a tiny star right nearby.

Edited at 2009-02-25 04:12 pm (UTC)
kijjohnson
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
I'll let you know what I see!
frugurl27
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
This is another one of those magical instances where I wish my parents hadn't sold off my telescope. :(
mckitterick
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:53 am (UTC)
I so want to go outside and watch it and photograph it, but I'm also so sick... argh!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )