Thursday, December 09, 2004

Comet Machholz spotted

2004 has sure been a banner year for bright comets. Last night, after coming back home from a food and fun night that our church held for students at the two medical schools here on Bonaire; Sandra and I observed what may be our fifth comet of the year.

Of course "bright" is a relative term. We could barely detect comet Machholz with our naked eye, after finding out exactly where to look using binoculars. But any comet that we can see with our naked eye is pretty cool.

The comet will be well placed during the whole holiday season, but this week is especially good for comet hunting because there is no pesky moon in the evening sky. (I saw the skinny crescent moon a little above Venus at 6 this morning.)

There is basic info about the comet and a finder chart on sky and telescope's web site. There is a very good, more detailed finder chart here. The good news is that the comet is only a little south west of Orion, a very prominent constellation. If you can find Orion, you should be able to use the detailed chart along with your binoculars, to "star hop" your way to the comet. Wow, all those connect the dots books that I did as a kid were preparing me to be an astronomer!

Let me know if you see it.

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