This comet is now visible in a properly dark sky low in the NW for a short period before the Moon rises on the opposite horizon. It is currently moving through Andromeda and it will come within a few degrees of M31 on April 5th. Its path is shown in this Journal article. For those lucky enough to have good weather conditions the comet is an impressive sight as noted in this report from Denis Buczynski (NE Scotland) tonight (March 28):
Comet observed in near perfect conditions here this evening, Just before moon rose I could see the comet with my naked eye and trace the tail (also naked eye) for about a degree. It was easily seen with the naked eye and it must be still around mag 3. It is a lovely looking comet, broad fan tail with one edge sharply defined and the other edge diffuse. Bright yellowy colour central condensation, which is small and sharp. Great view. If I don’t get another view of this comet, I will be well satisfied with this one. Image attached (slightly trailed as I let the EQ6 track with out any guiding. 20:41 UT 73s exposure ISO 800 Canon 1000d.
Last night (March 27), Andrew Robertson in Norfolk managed to observe it with a 6-inch refractor. He writes:
I used a 32mm Superwide Meade E/P giving x42 and a 1.6 deg FOV. I positioned the bright ’stellar’ core in the centre of the field and I could see a very faint tail extending vertically downwards (inverted image) half way to the edge of the field which equates to about 0.4 degrees in length (visually). I would say the tail appeared broader than my previous view two weeks ago on 13th March. I persevered until about 2035 hours (5 degs alt) but by then it was fading considerably. Well pleased.
So far, from SE England, I’ve only had fleeting views between small gaps in the cloud. Hopefully things will improve for those of us who haven’t yet managed a really good view of this comet. Keep sending observations to email@example.com.
More images can be found in the Comet Section gallery.
Comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS from NE Scotland on March 28th. Denis Buczynski.
On March 12 we received the first UK observations of this comet. It was visible very low down in the west along with the thin crescent Moon which was less than one day old.
So far we have received positive observations from James Abott (Witham, Essex), Ian Sharp (Selsey, Sussex) and Dennis Boon. James saw the comet at 1850 UTC using 15×70 bins and estimates the coma magnitude as +1 with a 45 arcmin tail. Ian imaged the comet and has a nice photo on his website here: http://www.astro-sharp.com/images/comets/C2011L4/C2011L4-2013-03-12-19-00-IDS.jpg He comments that he had a good view in a 130mm f/7 APO and that the comet has a very bright, starlike nucleus. Dennis Boon managed to get an image of the comet and the crescent Moon in the same shot.
My attempts from Chelmsford, only a few miles south of James, were thwarted by a band of cloud which sank in the sky at the same rate the comet was setting. I did get a nice image of a 23hr old Moon though: http://www.nickdjames.com/Media/albums/Astronomy/Moon/Moon_20130312_ndj.jpg.
Tonight the Sun sets at an azimuth of around 266 deg just before 6pm. An hour later the comet will be at an azimuth of 272 deg and around 4 deg above the horizon. The 2 day old crescent Moon will be much higher and slightly to the left (270 deg azimuth, 11 deg above the horizon). Please send any more observations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update – March 14, 07:35 – The weather over much of the UK cooperated at just the right time last night and we have received many observations, both visual and imaging, of this comet. Many thanks to everyone who has submitted material. I had my first view last night. The comet is certainly not the spectacular object that we hoped it would be but it was still exciting to pick it up in the bright twilight. It should still be a good object as it moves into darker skies.
Update – March 16 – Have a look at the Comet Section page here to see the latest images.
BAA member Denis Buczynski reports:
This comet (with period of 6.9 years) first discovered by Carl Hergenrother at Catalina in 1998 is now at perihelion and has undergone an outburst which makes it currently the brightest comet in Northern skies. It is well situated for study all night located in Pegasus with an altutude of more than 50 degrees and due south at midnight. The predicted magnitude at this time was around 15 but recent estimates have shown the comet to be more than 5 magnitudes brighter than that at around 9-10. This means that visual sightings including binocular observations are possible and DSLR photography will show the comet easily. CCD images show a bright elongated coma and a short broad southward pointing tail. This curent outburst coincides with the waning moon becoming less prominent and the next dark moon period beckoning. The Comet Section invites all observations(visual estimates and descriptions, drawings and images) to be submitted to email@example.com.
There are some images of this comet available for viewing on the Comet Gallery at the BAA Website.
A recent quote from the discoverer on Yahoo groups comet-ml on 2012 OCT 3
“I’d like to thank everyone who has been observing “my” comet during this outburst-filled apparition.
Last night I was able to spot the comet in my 30×125s and 12″ dob. The comet was around 9.8-9.9, highly condensed with a short tail to the south.
- Carl Hergenrother”
An image taken on Oct 5 by myself is here:
A colour image taken on Oct 3 by Micheal Jager is here:
Skyhound.com has generated this Finder Chart.
Over the next few nights comet C/2009 P1 Garradd will pass close by the globular cluster M92, in Hercules, and this will make for an interesting observing opportunity.
Stewart Moore, the BAA Deep Sky Section Director writes:
Although not a spectacular comet with a majestic tail, C/2009 P1 (Garradd) has endeared itself to many observers by visiting bright deep sky objects on its journey through the heavens. In late August 2011 it visited the globular cluster M71 and in early September of the same year it made a close approach to the Coathanger asterism. Now visible in the morning sky, Garradd continues its friendship with deep sky objects by making a close approach to another globular cluster, this time M92 in Hercules.
On February 3/4 it passes within 0.5 degree west of M92, making an ideal photo opportunity. The coordinates of M92 are RA 17h 17m.1 and Dec +43deg 08min. M92 has a visual magnitude of 6.5 and a diameter of 14 arcmin. Details and an ephemeris for the comet, which has a predicted magnitude of 6.5, can be downloaded from the Comet Section web page and are also available in the latest BAA paper circular No. 826 dated 2012 January 18.
With the Moon setting just after 04:00 on Feb. 3, M92 and the comet will be found at an altitude of around 40 degree in the east. Please send all observations to both the Deep Sky Section and the Comet Section.
Comet Lovejoy survived it’s encounter with the Sun, and is now putting on fine display in the southern hemisphere. This video was made by Australian amateur astronomer Colin Legg.
The BAA’s Denis Buczynski writes:
The ground based discovery of this Kreutz group sungrazer by Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy on 2011 November 27 has been followed closely by comet enthusiasts around the world as it headed towards perihelion passage on December 16. The spectacular views of the comet arrived at our computer screens via a medley of solar monitoring spacecraft. The comet survived its perihelion passage and has now begun its retreat from the Sun. There were some predictions, by comet experts, that the comet would disintegrate, as had been the case with many other sungrazers. Astonishing images were received showing the comet being disrupted during its close approach to the solar surface, losing it tail in the process. However the comet then appeared to brighten and another tail emerged from the brilliant cometary head. The link below will allow the reader to follow the development of the comet via the space imagery.
As the solar elongation grew the possibility of seeing a daylight comet increased. A comparison with the brilliant sungrazer C/1965 S1 Ikeya-Seki seen in daylight in 1965 is being made. The following link shows that daylight imaging has been achieved (extreme care must be taken during this type of imaging) with remarkably simple equipment and techniques:
Observers in the southern hemisphere are now beginning to see the comet rising in the early morning dawn sky. What the future developments are for this remarkable comet will be seen in images and observations made during the next few weeks. The link below shows a video of the comet and moon rising from a dark sky site in Western Australia made by Colin Legg .
Comet P/2011w2 Rinner was discovered on 28th November by Claudine Rinner using a 0.5m telescope in Morocco, showing that amateur astronomers can make comet discoveries and that searching/blinking
ccd frames is still worthwhile.
Currently it is rather faint though, at 17th magnitude.
BAA member Denis Buczynski was able to image it in the morning of November 30th using a Celestron C14 and FLI Maxcam, from his home observatory at Tarbatness, Scotland.
BAA members around the country managed to combine to produce a fine set of images over four nights to capture the passing of Comet 2009 P1 Garradd over the Coathanger.
As Comet Garradd makes its lazy sweep across the night sky, after last weeks close encounter with M71, this week the comet will cross just under the popular asterism known as the Coathanger. Also known as Brocchi’s Cluster and catalogued as Collinder 399 – today, though, it is generally recognised to be just an asterism, a chance collection of stars making up a pattern, rather than a true cluster of stars that were created at much the same time.
The Coathanger also has a special place in the heart of the BAA, as one of the Association’s most active observers, George Alcock, discovered a nova there in 1976.
This chart shows the comets path over the next few days.
This comet is easy with 10×50 binoculars, and is straightforward to find by locating the lovely double star Albireo (Beta Cygni), then hang down south and you will come to the Coathanger, and just under the Coathanger will be found comet Garradd.
If you manage to capture an image of this, please send it in for our picture of the week spot.
Over the next few nights the comet C/2009 P1 Garradd makes a close pass by of Messier object 71 in the constellation of Sagitta (the arrow). Close encounters between different classes of astronomical object are always of interest, both for the visual observer and the astronomical imager.
This chart shows the position of the comet and M71 in Sagitta around 22:30UT on August 26 2011.
Stewart Moore, director of the BAA Deep Sky Section writes:
M71 is a very loose globular which is close to us and lacks the condensed core of some of the more familiar summer globulars. In small binoculars or telescopes it appears as a mag 8 misty patch around 6 arcmin diameter and looking very comet like in appearance. It is easy to locate as it lies in Sagitta between and slightly south of a line from mag 3.5 gamma (the bright star forming the point of the arrow shape) and mag 3.8 delta just under 3 degree to the west. The position of M71 is RA 19h 54m 19s and Dec +18deg 49min (2000).
An ephemeris for Garradd can be found on the BAA Comet Section web page but for the night of August 26 / 27 is given as 19h 53.7m and Dec +18.57deg (2000)
On Aug 24 / 25 under mag 5 skies both comet and cluster were easily visible together in hand held 10×50 binoculars, both appearing similar in magnitude and in size. In 15×70 binoculars (4 deg field) the cluster appeared round with the comet diffuse and fan shaped.
The January 2011 edition of the Comet Section newsletter is available for download in pdf format from the Section web page at http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~jds/tail30.pdf
Comet 103P/Hartley is now a diffuse telescopic object of 10th magnitude, but currently still the brightest comet observable from the UK. The newsletter includes updated prospects for comets during 2011, including that of the new discovery 2010 X1 (Elenin). This may become a naked eye object in October, though the orbit is not yet known well enough to give precise details of the track. I will post further details when it comes into visual range.
Director Comet Section, British Astronomical Association