Friday, November 16, 2007
Comet Holmes visible by naked eye
If you haven't seen Comet Holmes yet I urge you to do so. It is easily visible with the naked eye and is an even better view in binoculars. Discovered in 1892 by the English amateur astronomer, Edwin Holmes, this fall it remained too dim to be seen with anything but a large telescope until October 24, when it suddenly spewed out large quantities of dust, making it visible to the naked eye. At first it remained a perfectly circular diffuse object with no characteristic tail. Since it is on the far side of the solar system, we may be looking directly down the direction of the tail, keeping it hidden from us. Lately it has started to develop a small tail.
To find Holmes, look nearly due east. At 8 p.m. it is about 60 degrees above the horizon, very near Mirfak, the brightest star in Perseus. If you are up later, it is easier to find, since at about 11:30 p.m. it is almost at the zenith.
By Saturday the moon will be at first quarter and its light will begin to hamper visibility of the comet, so try to see it soon, before the moon becomes full. Binoculars or a low power telescope would be the perfect way to observe the comet. So-called night glasses, 7x50 binoculars, are the binoculars of choice because they allow the most light to be gathered into the eyes. But daytime binoculars should work well also. I found the comet with an image-stabilized model of 12x36 binoculars.
For further information and photos, visit: www.skyandtelescope.com.
© 2007 The