Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comet Holmes Pictures

I should act before I write. I just went out for a lovely few hours, and took a look at Comet Holmes! It is really bright out there and easily visible to the naked eye even from downtown Cleveland- here's a picture from my friend Steven Janowiecki that he took earlier and has kindly allowed me to repost here-
The point of light circled in red is the comet (click to make the image larger). Notice how starlike it looks right now: Comet Holmes has no visible tail, which is completely weird and I'm not getting over just yet. The reason for this is it's still so far out that no tail has developed and most comets don't get bright enough until a tail is developed, whereas Holmes won't be at its closest to the sun until December 1. The fact that it still has over a month to approach the sun, during which it will release more gasses and (very probably) increase in brightness, means the show probably is just starting with this puppy. I'm incredibly excited!

Through the telescope was also interesting. The most obvious feature of the whole thing is that it's yellow, with a greenish tint. Astronomical objects rarely have color, especially not comets so far as I can recall, because your eye just plain isn't sensitive to such faint colors. Further, it has a very compact center with a nice ring of haze surrounding it- a very compact coma! There is not even a hint of a tail either, which is how the comet can look so starlike in the night sky.

Here's a picture that I took. Please realize this was just with my little digital camera placed against the eyepiece of the telescope in a rather cheap operation, and I didn't even bother to set the exposure longer than the default of the camera. (My camera isn't really one made for astrophotography.) However, the fact that my camera could image Comet Holmes under such conditions is impressive in itself! If you want to see some actual astrophotography, though, take a look at the spaceweather.com galleries as they're shaping up to having a great collection.

Last but not least because my sister asked- Comet Holmes is just barely visible in many parts of the southern hemisphere, but it really depends where you are and if you know where to look. People have already sent in pictures from Queensland, Australia so it's definetely doable, and a quick game of latitude reveals that you ought to just see it with an unobstructed horizon from a latitude like Melbourne or Auckland.

I can't find a southern sky finderchart, but here is the northern hemisphere one. Happy comet hunting, everyone!

2 comments:

cvj said...

Hi Yvette...

Thanks so much for doing this post (and letting us know about it over on Asymptotia). This is going to be one to watch!

cheers,

-cvj

astromcnaught said...

Nice photo...