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Comet Machholz and the Comet Hunters
January 4, 2005 9:09 AM   Subscribe

"Naked Eye" Comet Machholz (binoculars recommended) nears maximum brightness in the coming days ( starchart here and here). How to photograph a comet and other objects. The story of its discovery (his 10th). Comet hunters are an interesting breed. Now you can discover comets from your 'puter with SOHO imagery. If stargazing interests you, you may also like the Wunderground astronomy web application (based on U.S. zip codes).
posted by spock (7 comments total)

 
You beat me to it! I heard about this a couple of weeks ago and was thinking of posting it, but you did a more complete job than I would have. I got some pretty good views with binoculars as it passed by Orion but it has been to cloudy or foggy to see it the last few nights. Great post!
posted by TedW at 10:34 AM on January 4, 2005


[this is heavenly]
posted by moonbird at 10:48 AM on January 4, 2005


Will someone who knows about these things just tell me what part of the sky to look in? Like low in the northeast, high in the southeast, etc?
posted by Danf at 12:52 PM on January 4, 2005


Do you know where Orion is? Or the Pleiades cluster (small group of stars that looks like a really small dipper)?

Right now the comet is about to pass by the Pleiades. For a mid-latitude observer at this time of year, Orion rises in the East early in the evening. The Pleiades is above and to the right of Orion as you look at it.

Clear skies!
posted by achmorrison at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2005


Danf: That is hard to answer without knowing your location (or at least latitude) and the time of night you are looking (like the sun and moon, stars rotate west as time passes). For North American's, Orion is one of the most well known winter constellations (featuring three equally bright, equally spaced stars as Orion's belt).

At about 9 PM local time, you will find Orion prominent in the SE sky. If you draw a line through the three belt stars and follow that line up and to your right you will see a "V" shape that contains a bright reddish star. That star is Aldeberan in the constellation Taurus. Keep going a bit further and you will see a small "cloud" of stars. This is the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters) cluster.

NOW the chart in the first link should make sense, as Aldeberan is at the very bottom edge and the Pleiades in the lower center of that image. As you can see, the comet is seen a bit higher in the sky each night and will pass right next to the Pleiades on the 7th-9th.
posted by spock at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2005


Danf, use the whole sky chart for your area at Heavens Above Just plug in your location and it will show the sky visible from your area at any time.

And using the handy individual chart for this comet they have provided. You can see the comet is just to the west of the V of Taurus right now.

You should be able to spot the "fuzzy" star with your naked eye but using binoculars would probably be best.
posted by yupislyr at 8:19 PM on January 4, 2005


You should be able to spot the "fuzzy" star with your naked eye but using binoculars would probably be best.

Look at a chart, then go out and scan the spot with binoculars, find it and then you just might be able to see it with the naked eye. It's a fuzzy smear of light in the binoculars and barely visible without them. This was my experience when trying to find it from inside the Seattle city limits.
posted by y2karl at 9:11 AM on January 5, 2005


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