Friday, March 18, 2016
Finding Comet 252P 19-25 March (NOT April)
|Location of comet 252P from 19-25 March as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 ACDST. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent local time. Click to embiggen||Animation of the comets path through the sky from 19-25 March at 11pm.|
UPDATE: Saw the comet myself this morning (21 March) at 5:00 am in 10x50 binoculars, but not with the unaided eye from suburban Adelaide. In binoculars it was very dim to my eyes but definitely there. I had fairly good guide stars this time, as opposed to the previous morning, and I had familiarised myself with them in the evening.
Comet 252P continues to astonish with its unprecedented increase in brightness. It has been reported to be (just) visible with the unaided eye under dark sky conditions. Comet 252P/ LINEAR comes closest to Earth on March 22 at 00:15 AEDST, At this time it is very close at around 10 Earth Moon distances away, and should be at its brightest. Unfortunately the nearly full Moon will strongly interfere with seeing the comet. Especially as the comet is quite diffuse, it will be easily washed out.
As well, because it is so close to Earth, the comet is moving very fast, you should see it actually move over the course of the night. However, this means that astrophotography will be quite difficult as the comet will be hard to track.
On the night of the 19th, looking south, if you draw a line from the long axis of the Southern Cross to the star Achernar, then draw a line perpendicular to this from Canopus, the comet will be almost at the intersection of these two lines. On the 20th, the comet will be on a line drawn from alpha Centauri (Rigel Kent) to the star Achernar, closet to Rigel Kent. While the comet will be very hard to see with the unaided eye, strong binoculars or a telescopes finder-scope should pick it up.
After this, until the 25th when it reaches Scorpio, there are not really any good guide stars to the comet (but see the binocular comet chart below, okay so on the 21st and 22nd it is close to a Trianguli Australis, but this is not a very obvious star).
Over the next few days the comet get progressively lower in the evening sky, but becomes better to view in the morning. On the mornings of the 25th-28th the comet crosses the tail of the Scorpion and Sagittarius, coming close to a number of clusters and nebula. How bright the comet will be then is unknown, but hopefully it will be binocular bright as the Moon fades and its passes through the nebula. That should be spectacular.
Saw the comet here in Cairns this morning.
Found it with 8x42 HD binoculars, but not visible to the naked eye.
It may have been from a darker inland location.