Thursday, November 8, 2007

Go Have a Look at Comet Holmes!

Photo by Douglas Slauson

I've blogged about celestial events before. There was the Space Shuttle-International Space Station sighting, the Perseid meteor shower, the lunar eclipse, and more recently, the moon and Venus side by side. Now there's another one and if you don't go out and look for it, you're really missing something.

Comet Holmes first came on the scene in 1892, when Edward Holmes discovered it, visible then to the naked eye. Fourteen years later, it was lost to astronomers until 1964. Normally quite boring, on October 24th it experienced what is called an outburst. Most probably, a part of the comet experienced collapse, with particles being expelled and causing its brightness to increase dramatically to a magnitude about a million times more than normal. Lucky for us!

Over the weekend, Romie and I walked out into the backyard a couple of hours after sunset and looked up, trying to find Comet Holmes in the dark night sky. We knew to look in a northeasterly direction, just left of the constellation Perseus and about 45° off the horizon. There are a couple of very bright stars in that constellation, making it somewhat easy to find, and the comet was just as easy to locate. It looked like a cotton ball up there.

We had taken the binoculars out with us and looking through those, there was no doubt we had found it. I tried to take a photograph but had no luck. There are plenty of good photos to be found online though, like the one above, by Douglas Slauson.
It's starting to get dimmer now, so if the sky is cloud-free, get out there before it's gone! It likely won't be bright enough to see with the naked eye again for a long time.

While you're out there, look directly east to see the Seven Sisters, a.k.a. The Pleiades. That will be the cluster of seven bright stars nestled among lots of dimmer ones. You can't miss it.

Happy stargazing!


Ien in the Kootenays said...

Great Blog, I thought I was a gardener till I saw yours...
How much acreage do you have?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Yep, we saw the comet a few nights ago. I like star gazing.

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