Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Comet C/2021 A1 leonard is in outburst (21 Dec)
|Comet C/2021 A1 Leonard as seen looking west from Adelaide at 21:35 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset) on Tuesday 21 December. Similar views will be seen in elsewhere in Australia 60 minutes after sunset (click to embiggen).||Approximate binocular view of Comet C/2021 A1 Leonard as seen looking west from Adelaide at 21:35 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset) shown at daily intervals from 21 to 23 December. The guide stars omega Capricornii, Psi Capricornii and Gamma Microscopium are shown (see the printable charts). Similar views will be seen in elsewhere in Australia 60 minutes after sunset.|
Various reports have ranged from Magnitude 2 (easily visible to the unaided eye, to nearly magnitude 4 (difficult to see in the twilight). I was unable to see it with the unaided last night but it was very clear and obviously brighter in binoculars and picked up in photographic images.
How long it will remain in outburst is uncertain, but as it climbs higher in the sky it will be easier to observe as the background sky becomes darker. But definitely go out and look if you can tonight (21 December) around 60 minutes after sunset. Binoculars are a must even if it is unaided eye visible.
You will need to let your eyes dark adapt to get the best view of the comet, and there is a relatively narrow window between nautical twilight (60 minutes after sunset) , when you have the best chance of picking it up, until it becomes too low to the horizon and is obscured by horizon murk (about half an hour).
On the 21st the comet is around 2 binocular fields south of Saturn, sweeping south (left) and a bit up from Saturn brings you to the pair of brightish stars, Omega and Psi Capriconii, left again by one and a half binocular fields from Psi Capriconii is the comet,neat a dimmish star.
On the 22nd sweeping left from omega Capriconii will bring you to the comet, just above a dimmish star.
On the 23rd sweeping left and up from omega Capriconii will bring you to the comet, forming a shallow triangle with the stars alpha and gamma Microscopium .
Use the spotters mas to guide yuo and star hop from Saturn to Omega and Psi Capriconii, then on to the comet.
A black and white spotters chart suitable for printing is here . A B&W chart suitable for binoculars from the 21st to 25th is available here , the large circle is the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars.
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