Saturday, December 29, 2007

Two Comet Show on Friday Evening

We got to see comets Tuttle and Holmes last night. In the binoculars, Comet Tuttle was about as bright as the galaxy M31 was to the naked eye, that is, we could barely see it.

There was some high haze present the whole night, so we couldn't see the Milky Way. That made it easy to identify the constellations. But there were periods of time when the thick clouds cleared away, so I got about 16 one minute exposures of the sky between the constellations Andromeda and Perseus. You can see both Comet Tuttle and Comet Holmes in this picture. Tuttle is small and aqua colored. The X below Tuttle is where it was on Thursday night, and the X above Tuttle is where it will be Saturday night. It looks like the comet will pass right by the galaxy M33 soon.
I labeled a number of interesting objects in this picture. The first letter of each label is to the lower right of its object.
I drew in some constellation lines. The somewhat parallel lines running off the left side of the image are Andromeda. The triangle above Andromeda is Triangulum. The sprawling set of lines at the lower right of the picture is the constellation Perseus.

I had just started a series of close ups on the Andromeda / Tuttle area when my scope mount quit tracking. I have a bad wire in the cable running between the hand controller and the mount. I've been able to nurse it along for months, but I think it died for good last night. To fix it, I'll have to cut about a foot off of the end of the cable and re-solder the individual wires to the teeny tiny printed circuit board inside the controller. I'm a ham handed solderer, so I'm a little concerned, but I've got nothing to lose at this point. :)
We'll be outside tonight to see what we can see. It's been pretty cloudy and rainy all day, so who knows.... There is an Iridium flare at 19:34, so hopefully we'll get to see that at least. (There were also nice flares on Thur. and Fri. evenings, as seen from our backyard.)

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