torsdag 1 september 2011

Comet in the night sky - Komet på natthimmelen!

Have you ever dreamed of seeing a beautiful comet graze across the night sky? Comets are, contrary to common belief, rather common. At any time many comets can be seen in the sky, but most of them are faint and only a few comets get bright enough to come within the reach of the naked eye or a simple pair of binoculars. Particularly bright comets, also known as "great comets" are rare and usually only one or two may be seen in a lifetime.

Right now, there is a relatively bright comet visible in the northern hemisphere. The comet is called C/2009 P1 Garradd and has steadily increased in brightness since its discovery in 2009. Currently around magnitude 7.5, the comet is now bright enough to see with relatively modest equipment. A pair of 8x40 binoculars or similar should be sufficient to see the comet from a dark site. During the autumn, the comet is expected to increase further in brightness and maybe reach naked eye visibility from dark sites.

Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd close to the "Coathanger" asterism on 04 September 2011

The comet is well placed in the sky. It is currently to be found right next to the famous Coathanger asterism in the constellation Vulpecula which lies between the more well known and bright constellations Cygnus and Aquila in the Milky Way band.

During September it will pass into the constellation Hercules where it will remain until February. The magazine Sky and Telescope has an excellent finder chart that will make it easy to locate where the comet is:

Why not take the chance and go out and try to see one of the "best" comets of 2011. Despite bright skies here in Tromsø it was possible to observe it easily tonight with my 10x42 binoculars and as little as a 2 second exposure revealed the comet well. Visually it looked most like a small greenish fuzzball with moderate condensation.

I wish you all clear and dark skies and happy comet hunting !

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