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New Comet Now Visible to Naked Eye
Yahoo ^ | December 8, 2004 | Robert Roy Rritt

Posted on 12/08/2004 8:40:35 PM PST by Right Wing Professor

A comet discovered earlier this year has now moved close enough to be visible without binoculars or telescopes by experienced observers under dark skies. It is expected to put on a modest show this month and into January.

Comet Machholz will be at its closest to Earth Jan. 5-6, 2005, when it will be 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) away.

People with dark rural skies and a good map should be able to find it on Moon-free nights now into January.

Backyard astronomers have been watching Machholz for months through telescopes. It was spotted by naked-eye observers for the first time about three weeks ago from the Southern Hemisphere, said Donald Machholz, who discovered the frozen chunk of rock and ice in August.

"I saw it last night for the first time with the naked eye," Machholz told SPACE.com Friday.

Comets are made of rocky material and icy mixtures of water and various other chemicals. As a comet approaches the Sun, the surface is heated and essentially boils off. Scientists call the process sublimation. The gas and dust creates a head, also called a coma, and sometimes a tail. Sunlight reflects off the material, making some comets visible from Earth.

Comet Machholz, officially named c/2004 Q2, is not expected to produce the sort of spectacular display put on by comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 or the periodically stunning Halley's comet.

Astronomers cannot say exactly how bright Machholz will get, because it is notoriously difficult to predict the behavior of comets making their first observed close trip around the Sun. Scientists don't fully understand the composition of comets, nor their variety, so they don't know how much stuff will sublimate nor how fast.

Machholz is expected to reach magnitude 4.0, based on an early estimate. On this astronomers' scale, smaller numbers represent brighter objects. The dimmest things visible under perfectly dark skies are around magnitude 6.5. The brightest star, Sirius, is magnitude minus 1.42.

Recent observations suggest Machholz will do at least as well as first predicted.

"The comet is doing better than expected and is about 0.5 magnitudes brighter than expected," Machholz said. "So it will probably get brighter than the Andromeda Galaxy, brighter than magnitude 4.0."

The Andromeda Galaxy is the furthest object visible to the unaided human eye under dark skies. It is a magnitude 3.4 object.

If the comet were to become roughly magnitude 3.0, it would still appear common among the sea of stars available to dark-sky observers. City and suburban dwellers would likely not find it without optical aid. In either case, binoculars or a small telescope might reveal the comet as more of a fuzzy patch, and if it develops a significant tail, that could be visible too.

Machholz, who has found nine other comets, suggests looking for his latest discovery when the Moon is out of the picture, such as around Dec. 11 when it will be at its New phase.

"The comet can still be seen when the Moon is out, but it will be difficult," he said by email. "Use binoculars or a wide-field (low power) telescope, and/or get to a dark site."

The comet is low on the horizon now, where the atmosphere makes for poor viewing. By early January, the comet will be much higher in the sky, improving viewing conditions.

I haven't yet found a decent online map of its current and predicted positions; if I can't find one tomorrow, I'll draw one and post it.


TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: astronomy; comet; comet2004q2; cometmachholz; greencomet
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Worth a look if you're somewhere with a dark sky. I found it with non-dark adapted eyes in less than 5 minutes wtih a pair of 9 X 63 binoculars. I think you could see it with unaided eyes in a very dark sky if you dark-adapted for 1/2 hour. It looked brighter to me than Sky and Telescope's prediction; in a few days it should be a fairly easy naked eye object. I had it at -22 degres south, 4h 42 R.A. this evening at 9;30 CDT.

Finding it: draw a line between Betelgeuse, the top left, reddish star in Orion, to Rigel (the bright bottom right star). Go further along that line the same distance again. The comet is right there. It's about 2 degrees (the length of Orion's belt) south of 54 Eridani, which is really the only star easily visible to the unaided eye in the region; it's moving north, and by December 12 should be due East of 54 Eridani. By early January it will be much brighter and next to the Pleiades.

1 posted on 12/08/2004 8:40:36 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Right Wing Professor

There was a comet a few years ago that went right over the north star.It was like the night sky itself was a giant clock and the comet was its hour hand. Pretty neat.


2 posted on 12/08/2004 8:49:26 PM PST by Nateman (The enemies of reason are allies of evil.)
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To: RadioAstronomer; edwin hubble; longshadow

Tsk! Letting the amateurs beat you guys at your own game :-).


3 posted on 12/08/2004 8:50:28 PM PST by RightWingAtheist (Marxism-the creationism of the left)
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To: Right Wing Professor
It was spotted by naked-eye observers for the first time about three weeks ago . . .

Amazing naked-eye observers can still make discoveries like this.

4 posted on 12/08/2004 8:50:57 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: Right Wing Professor

5 posted on 12/08/2004 8:52:32 PM PST by AntiGuv (ô)
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To: msdrby

ping


6 posted on 12/08/2004 8:53:12 PM PST by Professional Engineer (Pulled up behind 'em, pulled out my pistol, and blew 'em away. ~ Chuck Brodsky, minstrel)
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To: LibWhacker
Amazing naked-eye observers can still make discoveries like this.

Amazing what good eyes some people have. I know where it is, but I haven't picked it up yet without binocs, even with averted vision.

7 posted on 12/08/2004 8:56:07 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Right Wing Professor

All I see is the moon and a bunch of dots.


8 posted on 12/08/2004 8:58:25 PM PST by REDWOOD99
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To: Right Wing Professor

Are you way out in the boonies? Can't see anything around here.


9 posted on 12/08/2004 8:59:13 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: RandallFlagg

Ping!


10 posted on 12/08/2004 9:00:11 PM PST by CurlyBill (Mark Levin for the Supreme Court!)
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To: REDWOOD99

Cloudy here, darnit!


11 posted on 12/08/2004 9:02:15 PM PST by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Could you put that into laymans (farm people) terms please?


12 posted on 12/08/2004 9:02:47 PM PST by ChefKeith (Life is GREAT with CoCo..........NASCAR...everything else is just a game!(Except War & Love))
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To: RightWingAtheist

Heh, it's the amateurs that have the time and telescopes to find these things (aside from the LINEAR comets). Us pros get too caught up in other things.


13 posted on 12/08/2004 9:02:57 PM PST by MikeD (Columnated ruins domino...)
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To: Right Wing Professor

This was described at space.com as the estimated position on January 5th, 8pm local time, at the northern mid-latitudes.

14 posted on 12/08/2004 9:03:17 PM PST by alancarp (When does it cease to be "Freedom of the Press" and become outright SEDITION?)
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To: Right Wing Professor

bump for later--


15 posted on 12/08/2004 9:05:02 PM PST by two23
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To: Right Wing Professor; Howlin; Molly Pitcher; MozartLover; Miss Marple; lepton; Species8472; ...

bttt


16 posted on 12/08/2004 9:05:56 PM PST by kayak (Merry CHRISTmas!)
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To: kayak

long way away bump


17 posted on 12/08/2004 9:09:02 PM PST by txhurl
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To: kayak; Brad's Gramma; Carolinamom; TC Rider; jern

Oh, here we go, back outside!


18 posted on 12/08/2004 9:09:37 PM PST by Howlin (W, Still the President)
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To: LibWhacker
Are you way out in the boonies

Rural Nebraska. As boonie as it gets. You might need to wait a couple of weeks to see it in the city.

19 posted on 12/08/2004 9:09:54 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Howlin

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I have to get up in the morning!

Oh well. BRB! :) Thanks for the ping!


20 posted on 12/08/2004 9:11:54 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Proud Patriots dot com! Check it out!!!)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Ping... waiting for a clear sky


21 posted on 12/08/2004 9:11:58 PM PST by JeffersonRepublic.com
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To: Right Wing Professor
Comet Machholz
Coarse finder chart
(60° field-of-view, stars to mag. 6.5)
Fine finder chart
(5° field-of-view, stars to mag. 9.0)

All data valid for local time 06:09:45, 09 Dec (UTC 05:09:45, 09 Dec)
Geocentric Data
Right Ascension (J2000): 4h 41m 19.6s
Declination (J2000): -22° 28' 26"
Constellation: Eridanus
Magnitude: 5.6
Distance from Earth:   0.5269 AU
Light time: 263 seconds
 
Heliocentric Data
Distance from Sun: 1.4045 AU
Perihelion: 1.2051 AU
(24-Jan-2005)
Aphelion: 4,838.51 AU
Period: 119,039.8 years
Eccentricity: 0.999502
Inclination to ecliptic: 38.589°
Longitude of ascending node: 93.627°
Argument of perihelion: 19.502°

22 posted on 12/08/2004 9:13:32 PM PST by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: Right Wing Professor

From Sky and Telescope: Comet symbols show it's position at
0:00 Universal Time on the dates indicated; which is on the
evening of the previous date local time in North America.

23 posted on 12/08/2004 9:14:40 PM PST by concentric circles
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To: Right Wing Professor

24 posted on 12/08/2004 9:16:41 PM PST by My2Cents ("Well...there you go again.")
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To: Right Wing Professor

Found it. I think. It's the only fuzzy object in the area. Pretty big through the binocs. Using a 12x50 zoom at wide angle. Seems a little on top of the line you drew. Is that correct?


25 posted on 12/08/2004 9:18:33 PM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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To: alancarp

Hope it's clear here on Jan. 5th. It should be easy to find, just below the Pleiades.


26 posted on 12/08/2004 9:18:42 PM PST by My2Cents ("Well...there you go again.")
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To: Right Wing Professor

Naked Eye.. sounds a bit Ob Seen.


27 posted on 12/08/2004 9:19:17 PM PST by dc-zoo
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To: Right Wing Professor

Graat! Ill be high up in the mountains around Jan 5 and 6 and hopefully will have clear skies.


28 posted on 12/08/2004 9:19:47 PM PST by Kirkwood
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To: Eastbound

Oops! My mistake. I don't have zoom, so just using the 12. (272 feet @ 1000 yards). Will try to take a picture with my Z1 digital.


29 posted on 12/08/2004 9:24:11 PM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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To: alancarp
Thanks. I've put its current (12/8/04) position on the map, as a yellow dot; The yellow arrow points to it. It's going to inch up slowly each night.
30 posted on 12/08/2004 9:27:25 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Howlin

So! I went outside as directed....I saw two planes coming in to John Wayne...and the neighbors have THE nicest rooftop decorations.

Other than that....a wholelotta clouds. :)


31 posted on 12/08/2004 9:28:52 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Proud Patriots dot com! Check it out!!!)
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To: FreedomCalls

That's right where I saw it. Thanks.


32 posted on 12/08/2004 9:30:22 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Eastbound
Seems a little on top of the line you drew. Is that correct?

Hard to say what's a straight line on a sphere. :-) I gave the best estimate I could using a ruler and a star atlas.

33 posted on 12/08/2004 9:37:17 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: ChefKeith
Could you put that into laymans (farm people) terms please?

Hey, I live on a farm too.

It's low in the south. I've you've got really good eyes and you live away from the city, you might see it as a fuzzy patch to the south about midnight, if you let your eyes get used to the darkness for a half hour. If you have any kind of binoculars or a spotting scope, it should show up pretty clear. It'll be getting brighter and higher in the sky for the next month; I'd estimate it'll be easily visible to the naked eye by early January.

34 posted on 12/08/2004 9:42:00 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Right Wing Professor

Live up on the yukon, real dark skys. Cold & clear minus 32. I noticed something yellower & brighter to the SE on horizon; different than everything else with bino's. Or is it straight south on horizon?


35 posted on 12/08/2004 9:44:24 PM PST by Eska
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To: Right Wing Professor

Is this any relation to Comet LouHolz?


36 posted on 12/08/2004 9:50:33 PM PST by Angry Enough
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To: Judith Anne
Cloudy here, darnit!

Here too. If I'd just known last night I could have finally used my new telescope, which I've had for about 6 months (It was a gift). I'm in a fairly dark sky spot, so with the 'scope or my 7X50s, I should be able to see it pretty well

.....

Just went out to check. It's cleared up since sunset! However, I've recently moved and just discovered that I haven't a clue where my binoculars are. :( Oh, well, I'll set up the 'scope tommorrow and take a look.

37 posted on 12/08/2004 9:58:36 PM PST by El Gato (Activist Judges can twist the Constitution into anything they want ... or so they think.)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Thanks for the viewing information. My husband is an excellent amateur astronomer. We have an 8" Celestron in a trunk which we'll have to get out and use to find this comet, of course. :-)


38 posted on 12/08/2004 10:09:02 PM PST by NotJustAnotherPrettyFace (Michael <a href = "http://www.michaelmoore.com/" title="Miserable Failure">"Miserable Failure"</a>)
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To: Right Wing Professor

39 posted on 12/08/2004 10:15:36 PM PST by apastron
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To: Right Wing Professor
Going to have to try it again tomorrow. Here's my first attempt. At least I think I'm in the right area but need to bracket a few for longer exposure. Thanks for the tip, RWP.

CLICK!

40 posted on 12/08/2004 10:16:34 PM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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To: apastron

Nice!


41 posted on 12/08/2004 10:19:55 PM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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To: Right Wing Professor

bump


42 posted on 12/08/2004 10:38:41 PM PST by quietolong
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To: quietolong

Maybe we will get lucky and it will change course and hit mecca.


43 posted on 12/08/2004 10:48:47 PM PST by Nuzcruizer
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To: Right Wing Professor
visible without binoculars or telescopes by experienced observers under dark skies

Haven't seen a star dimmer than mag 4 for years in this light-polluted town. Mag 3 is the usual limit, which gives us about two dozen stars on the usual clear night. M31 is still visible in spite of that, but that's only because I have been watching it for decades. In prior times before we decided to light up the night this comet would have been easy almost anywhere, even downtown Manhattan now and then. Experienced observers are rare birds.

44 posted on 12/08/2004 10:54:45 PM PST by RightWhale (Destroy the dark; restore the light)
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To: LibWhacker
Amazing naked-eye observers can still make discoveries like this.

Actually it was discovered using a telescope. It just recently became visible to naked-eye observers.

"Backyard astronomers have been watching Machholz for months through telescopes. It was spotted by naked-eye observers for the first time about three weeks ago from the Southern Hemisphere, said Donald Machholz, who discovered the frozen chunk of rock and ice in August."

Machholz is probably using some sort of sky searching software looking for moving objects since he is the discoverer of 9 other comets. Not bad for a backyard amateur!

45 posted on 12/08/2004 11:02:28 PM PST by Joe Miner
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To: RightWhale
Wow! You're in Anchorage, aren't you? Didn't know Anchorage was that bad.

I'd like to move back to the boonies myself someday so I can see the night sky again, and plink tin cans from my back porch anytime I want, if I so desire. Question is, will I make it before my eyes give out completely. :-(

46 posted on 12/08/2004 11:04:13 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: Joe Miner

Ohhhhhhh! . . . Misread that one, didn't I? Thanks.


47 posted on 12/08/2004 11:06:29 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

Fairbanks. Think it's the boonies? Many do. This place is lighted so you could see it from Mars. Anchorage is probably worse. Fairbanks is also the 4th most dangerous metropolitan area in the country, that's right, which all the artificial light hasn't done anything to help.


48 posted on 12/08/2004 11:09:18 PM PST by RightWhale (Destroy the dark; restore the light)
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To: Right Wing Professor
Finding it: draw a line between Betelgeuse, the top left, reddish star in Orion, to Rigel (the bright bottom right star). Go further along that line the same distance again. The comet is right there. It's about 2 degrees (the length of Orion's belt) south of 54 Eridani, which is really the only star easily visible to the unaided eye in the region; it's moving north, and by December 12 should be due East of 54 Eridani. By early January it will be much brighter and next to the Pleiades.

Thanks! Now, if we could only do something about these clouds...

49 posted on 12/08/2004 11:16:04 PM PST by Chemist_Geek ("Drill, R&D, and conserve" should be our watchwords! Energy independence for America!)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Any chances of getting all the Senators who voted for the Stupidity Reform Bill today, to join a cult and get on the spacecraft that's following it?


50 posted on 12/08/2004 11:47:37 PM PST by fire_eye (Socialism is the opiate of academia.)
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