Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comet in Perseus

From Sky and Telescope, nothing to do with southeast Missouri directly, but I thought I'd share:

"Sudden Naked-Eye Comet Shocks the Astronomy World"

"A distant comet that was as faint as magnitude 18 on October 20th has
suddenly brightened by a millionfold, altering the naked-eye appearance of
the constellation Perseus.

This startling outburst of Comet Holmes (17P) may be even stronger than the
one that occurred 115 years ago, in November 1892, when the comet was first
spotted by English amateur Edwin Holmes.

According to IAU Circular 8886, issued Wednesday October 24th by the Central
Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in Cambridge, Massachusetts, A. Henriquez
Santana at Tenerife, Canary Islands, was the first to notice the outburst
shortly after local midnight on the 24th. The comet was then about 8th
magnitude, but within minutes Ramon Naves and colleagues in Barcelona,
Spain, caught it at magnitude 7.3.

Internet discussion groups came alive with the news. 'To my amazement, 17P
had brightened to naked-eye visibility,' exclaimed Bob King when he spotted
Comet Holmes shortly before dawn in Duluth, Minnesota. 'What a sight!' he
posted to the Comets Mailing List. Alan Hale of Cloudcroft, New Mexico,
concurred. To Hale (well-known codiscoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp) it appeared
essentially starlike in a telescope until he switched to high power.

Then things only got better. As Earth continued to turn, nightfall arrived
in Japan. 'It is visible with naked eyes in a large city!' posted Seiichi
Yoshida, who observed the comet from beside Tsurumi River in Yokohama. By
17:15 Universal Time he was describing Comet Holmes as magnitude 2.8."

Much more ... with charts and pictures:
Look towards the northeast, just south of the delta Persei. Other reports claim that it can be seen despite the full moon!

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