Friday, October 08, 2010
Where is Comet 103P/Hartley Now?
Image rendered in Stellarium, Stellarium coordinates and instructions for adding 103P to Stellarium are here.
Comet 103P/Hartley is currently (for northern hemisphereians), in a rather beautiful part of the sky, for the next two days the comet, on the boundary of the constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus, is within binocular distance of a number of beautiful open clusters and nebula. These include NGC884, Stock 2, IC 1848 being some of the most prominent.
Printable B&W binocular Spotters chart (click to embiggen and print)
You will have the best views from dark sky sites of course, but even in places with modest light pollution the comet should be visible as a faint fuzzy dot.
Telescopically the comet is quite nice, there is quite an extended coma around the nucleus, but no really identifiable tail.
Comet 103P (lower right) near NGC 884 on 7 October via the GRAS G5 instrument.
You should be able to see the comet with the unaided eye soon. Technically, you should be able to see it now, but, it's around magnitude 6, and being and extended, fuzzy object, seeing it will be a challenge in even dark sky sites.
When looking for the comet, make sure you allow your eyes to dark adapt for at lest 5 or more minutes, the presence of many open clusters and nebula will also make it hard to be sure which is the comet and which is the cluster/nebula. However, in binoculars, the comet will be readily apparent as a fuzzy dot compared to the stars and extended nebula.
In space, Hubble is examining the comet in preparation for the EPOXI fly-by, the latest EPOXI images are here.