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Saturday, February 14, 2009


Comet Lulin, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter 16-18 February

The eastern morning sky around 1:30 am ACDST Adelaide (click to enlarge).

Currently the Moon is drowning out comet Lulin, however, in the next few days there will be a good opportunity to see this comet. On the 16th and 17th of February the comet will be within a binocular field of the bright star Spica, alpha Virginis. It is very easily seen in binoculars (the only fuzzy star near Spica), and may be visible to the unaided eye under dark sky conditions.

You of course need to get up early in the morning (between about 1:30 am 5:30 am) to see the comet.

This chart to the left (click to enlarge) is suitable for printing. It shows the comet in relation to Spica, the circle represents the field of view of 10x 50 binoculars.

While you are up, cast your gaze to the eastern horizon, Mercury is the obvious bright object above the horizon, Jupiter is the bright object just above the horizon and Mars is a fainter dot above Jupiter. Between the 16th and the 18th, Mars and Jupiter draw closer and are closest, half a fingerwidth apart, on the 18th (see image below).

The eastern horizon in the morning at 6:00 am ACDST Adelaide on the 18th (click to enlarge).

Keep on watching, on the 23rd there is a spectacular line up of Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and the crescent moon, and on the 24th, comet Lulin is in binocular range of Saturn, and should be visible to the unaided eye.

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