Saturday, January 07, 2017
Comet 45P in Outburst Close to the Horizon.
Comet 45P is comfirmed to be in out burst, and is reported by multiple observers to be around magnitude 6.5, at least half a magnitude brighter than predicted.
The bad news is though the comet is bright enough to be theoretically seen easily in binoculars, it is very low to the horizon at nautical twilight an hour after sunset, from just a hand span (six degrees) in southern states to two hand-spans in Darwin and Cairns.
It is even lower at the full dark of astronomical twilight 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.
However, it is close to some good celestial landmarks. So if you have a flat, unobstructed western horizon (like the ocean) it is well worth going out and looking.
Use in conjunction with the sky chart above. The large circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The small that of a 24 mm eyepiece with a 114 mm Newtonian scope. The grey band represents the horizon. Click to embiggen and print.
The comet is almost next to theta (ϴ) Capricornii at the moment, a line drawn through Venus and Mars points to it (see printable chart above), but with star hopping you can find 45P easily.
A line drawn from Mars to Venus and continued to the horizon brings first to the star Deneb Algedi (delta Capricornii, δ (43) on the printable map). Downward from that following down the Mars-Venus line is gamma Capricornii (𝛾 (40) on the printable map) close by. Continuing down is iota Capricornii (℩ (32) on the printable map, then theta (ϴ (23)) Capricornii. You may need binoculars to see theta Cap (whats with the (ϴ (23)) the map is showing the greek letter and the Bayer number of the star).
The comet is just above theta Cap. It will be the only dim fuzzy dot in the area. On the 7th it is almost directly between two dimmer stars that form a triangle with theta Cap, on subsequent nights it move closer to the northward star.
the comet will be only high enough above the horizon for observation for a few more nights, so now is our best chance to see it in the evening.
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