Monday, November 05, 2007

Newly Visible Comet

I just stumbled across this news that Comet 17P/Holmes is now visible to the unaided eye:

"The comet is exploding and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks the tail usually associated with such celestial bodies but can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus, as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper."

snip

"Until October 23, the comet had been visible to modern astronomers only with a telescope, but that night it suddenly erupted and expanded.

A similar burst in 1892 led to the comet's discovery by Edwin Holmes."

I don't know if the comet's coma is actually larger than Jupiter, or just appears larger to us here on Earth than Jupiter does. Tough to tell sometimes in wire service copy. I intend to go out and take a look tonight.

2 comments:

Cynthia said...

If you're interested in more details, Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog has some good information on comet 17/P Holmes, as well as pictures & video.

---Cindy

H. Houlahan said...

It is spectacular; go to the Sky & Telescope website for a star chart to locate it. Clearly visible as a "fuzzy star" even in suburban lights, and something else again in binoculars. From the top of a mountain in West Virginia, it's an event. (And a great excuse for a night hike.)