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Up in the sky…It’s a bird..It’s a plane…It’s 17/P Holmes 2007 !! October 31, 2007

Posted by psmc in astronomy, Comets, Explosions, Science.
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Nature is putting on an impromptu and impressive display for us to enjoy.  Well, for us in he Northern Hemisphere.  Sorry Lisa, Lou and the rest of Australia.  Comet Holmes, first seen in 1892, has suddenly brightened from a visual magnitude 10 to a visual magnitude 3.  For those of you not familiar with astronomical magnitudes, this means the comet suddenly brightened  630 times.   In astronomy the SMALLER the magnitude number the brighter it is, for example the Sun has a magnitude of -27.  Also visual magnitude refers to how bright it seems to us.  Comet Holmes is now on the part of its orbit that will carry it away from the Sun, so it will get progressively dimmer, eventually fading from view.

Finding this comet is relatively easy.  Look for Casseiopeia, it appears as a misshapen W, M, E or 3 depending on its orientation. Once you find it, look at the two stars that form the second leg of the W.  Then continue the is leg DOWN from the W.  The next group of stars you will come to is the Constellation Perseus.  In fact line will pass right by Comet Holmes, at it will for the next week or so.  It will appear starlike to the the naked or  perhaps a bit fuzzy depending on how dark and clear you location is.  It will also have a yellowish tint to it.  It is more impressive in even a modest pair of binoculars.  It will appear a large fuzzy, yellowish dot.  The comet rises early and is visible throughout the night.

Comets are ephemeral by nature so its appearance can and most likely will change as time goes on.  If you get a chance, go out and look for it.  It should be visible and relatively easy to find for the next month or so.  If you like what you saw or didn’t get a chance to see it it will be back in August 0f 2013.  Hopefully it will be brighter on its return than it was this time. Since there is a good chance that most of the material placed into its coma by this recent outburst will still be present on its return.