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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 

Comet 45P Brightens Close to the Horizon.

Location of comet 45P. Evening sky on Saturday December 24 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:38 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with (binocular only) comet 45P and Neptune. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing, showing a higher power view of the area around comet 45P from 22 December to 21 January. Use in conjunction with the sky chart above. The circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Click to embiggen and print.


Comet 45P is around magnitude 8, bright enough to be theoretically seen in binoculars from dark sky sites, however, it is very low to the horizon at astronomical twilight, just a hand span (six degrees) and there is a very narrow window for observing it before it is too low to image or see through the horizon murk. It will look like a fuzzy dot in binoculars and small telescopes. In astroimages a nice tail can be seen.

The comet is brightening and is almost midway between psi and beta Capricornii at the moment, a line drawn through Venus and Mars  points to it(see printable chart above). During the next week it heads towards theta Capricornii and should reach magnitude 7, but becomes too close to the horizon at astronomical twilight (an hour and a half after sunset) to observe. 

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