Skip to comments.Clearing skies make comet more visible
Posted on 01/13/2005 11:20:23 AM PST by BenLurkin
Clearing skies over the high desert will finally give stargazers a chance to peer at Comet Machholz, the noticeably green comet that has been transiting constellations above the southeastern horizon for several months.
The comet, a faint glowing "fuzzball" detectable with the unaided eye, is now arcing upward through the lower portion of the constellation Perseus and can easily be seen with binoculars.
To find Comet Machholz, look toward the southeast after complete darkness, preferably in an area that is distant from street lights. Find the lowest recognizable constellation, Orion. It appears as a long box of four bright stars, tilted about 45 degrees to the left, with a distinct row of three stars that make up the mighty hunter's waist belt.
Draw an imaginary line upward from Orion and it will pass near Aldebaran, a bright red star in the constellation of Taurus, "The Bull."
Continue higher and the next distinguishable constellation is The Pleiades, a tiny star cluster resembling a delicate little dipper. Comet Machholz passed two degrees to the right of The Pleiades on Friday. It is now climbing up the right side of Perseus, just above the Pleiades, and it's headed toward the twin star, Algol, a bright fixture in the right central portion of Perseus. It will pass two degrees to the left of Algol on Sunday night-Monday morning. (The tip of the little finger, at arm length, is about 1 degree wide.)
Comet Machholz was discovered in August by amateur astronomer Don Machholz of Colfax, Calif. It was an 11th-magnitude image then, but as it neared earth it grew in brightness until registering magnitude 3.3 on Jan. 7, when it came closest to earth. (Smaller numbers on the magnitude scale represent brighter objects.)
Comet Machholz is not putting on a colorful display such as Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, because its core of rocky and icy material is not large. Two faint tails have been seen, however.
The ion tail extends upward to the left, in the opposite direction of the sun. It is made up of electrically charged atoms and molecules blown away from the comet's glowing atmospheric coma by the solar wind. The other tail is a dust tail that points down. Solar winds have little effect on dust tails.
This week should be ideal to view the comet because of the absence of moonlight. The moon makes its next first-quarter appearance on Monday, and gets larger and brighter each night until the next full moon on Tuesday, Jan. 25.
The comet is expected to dim to the fourth magnitude by the end of this month and become a fifth-magnitude object by the third week of February. Under perfect-dark viewing conditions, the comet should be visible with unaided eyes until about the middle of March.
The comet's coma contains two substances that glow green when illuminated by sunlight: cyanogens (CN) and diatomic carbon (C2).
Comet Machholz will be closest to the sun on Monday, Jan. 24 (112,019,920 miles).
And be sure to look now: Moving in an elongated orbit as it leaves the vicinity of Earth and the sun and heads out into space again, the comet is not expected to be visible again for 119,000 years.
Where is Valley Press located?
From their website: "The Antelope Valley Press serves north Los Angeles County and southeastern Kern County in southern California with a full-service newspaper seven days a week."
I'll be looking for it all right. Right when we get rid of the clouds. My metro area has recorded six *hours* of sunlight so far this year.
Basically that portion of the Mojave desert which is in L.A. County.
Isn't Don a FReeper?
Bump for the comet.
Corkscrew Meteor Mystery
Space Com ^ | 1-7-05 | Robert Roy Britt
Posted on 01/07/2005 1:27:02 PM PST by sonofatpatcher2
Thanks for the replies.
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