Friday, March 22, 2002
New comet shines in evening sky
If you would like to find this comet, a low horizon between west and northwest is essential with as few lights as possible; the Cranberry Bog, the State Park and Towle Field come to mind. The best time to look is as soon as it gets dark, at 7:30 it will be only 11 to 12 degrees above the horizon and setting fast. It will keep this elevation for at least a week but then slowly slip into the glare of the sun only to emerge in late April in the morning sky. Now is the best time to find it in the evening sky as it is at its peak brightness.
To help locate Ikeya-Zhang you might start by finding the three planets which are easily visible this time of the evening. Start with Jupiter to the southwest about 64 degrees above the horizon and the brightest object in the sky except for the star Sirius. Three or four of Jupiter's moons should be visible in your binoculars. Next drop down to about 42 degrees and a little further west to Saturn, dimmer and yellower than Jupiter. Finally, look for Mars about 22 degrees above the horizon almost due west, reddish and dimmer than Saturn.
From Mars scan down to about 12 degrees above the horizon and sweep northward, holding that 12-degree elevation. With enough patience and slow scanning Ikeya-Zhang should pop into view with a bright central core and a faint upward pointing tail.
For more information on this comet check the Sky and Telescope website: www.skypub.org.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito