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

That would be... bad. For everyone... everywhere.

51 posted on 12/08/2004 11:50:57 PM PST by apastron
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To: RightWhale

Wow, I had NO idea. Yeah, I always thought Anchorage, and especially Fairbanks, were relatively small and safe. Never been to Alaska. Always been a dream of mine.


52 posted on 12/08/2004 11:52:03 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: Chemist_Geek

Dang. I went outside and looked up, but all I could see was the Sears Tower...


53 posted on 12/08/2004 11:52:35 PM PST by EternalVigilance
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To: Joe Miner
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!

Here's his story...
Machholz Discovery

54 posted on 12/09/2004 12:02:40 AM PST by apastron
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To: Right Wing Professor

great graphic - thanks for posting...


55 posted on 12/09/2004 2:39:34 AM PST by gobucks (http://oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/classics/students/Ribeiro/laocoon.htm)
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To: LibWhacker

Anchorage is over 250,000 population now. Much like any other city of similar size it has the same problems. But a half-hours drive will get you in the boonies and a half-hours flight will get you beyond the road system to areas where you'll rarely see another human.


56 posted on 12/09/2004 2:54:16 AM PST by Alaska Wolf (Trained by English Setters)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Very helpful tips. Thanks!


57 posted on 12/09/2004 5:11:41 AM PST by Molly Pitcher (We are Americans...the sons and daughters of liberty...*.from FReeper the Real fifi*)
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To: CurlyBill

Thanks for the ping.


58 posted on 12/09/2004 8:24:06 AM PST by RandallFlagg (FReepers, Do NOT let the voter fraud stories die!!!! (Magnetic bumper stickers-click my name))
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To: Eastbound
I think you'll need a lot more exposure; looks like you're only picking up mag 2; you'll need to get to mag 5, which will take about 20 times longer.

I've found a little photoshop enhancement does wonders with digital photos of the sky. In any case, I'll give it a shot myself this evening.

Of course, if you wait a month, you may be able to get a nice wide-angle shot with the comet and the Pleiades.

59 posted on 12/09/2004 8:50:28 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: Right Wing Professor
Thanks for the tip. I'll try again tonight too. I used f 3.5 and 30 seconds for the pic. Guess I'll try for 10 minutes. We usually have clear nights here with no glow. I'm out in the boonies at the edge of the Gila National Forest in NM and the skies are spectacular most of the time.

Trying to figure out how to get beyond the 30-second max time exposure on my camera. It doesn't have the bulb setting. Otherwise won't be able to get the pix.

60 posted on 12/09/2004 9:25:18 AM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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To: Right Wing Professor
in a few days it should be a fairly easy naked eye object

I refuse to go into public with naked eyes.

I mean, have some shame, man!

61 posted on 12/09/2004 9:28:15 AM PST by Lazamataz ("Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown" -- harpseal)
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To: Eastbound
Trying to figure out how to get beyond the 30-second max time exposure on my camera.

Be aware that with a standard 50mm f.l. lens on a 35mm SLR, you can take a time exposure of no more than about 60 seconds without the celestial objects "trailing" on the film (or CCD) due to the rotation of the earth. Shorther focal lengths = longer exposures without trailing, at the expense of smaller image size of the object.

Hope that helps.

62 posted on 12/09/2004 9:31:31 AM PST by longshadow
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To: longshadow

Thanks, longshadow. I'll use hi-res, wide open (f 2.8), ISO 400 and 30 seconds. That's the best I can do with the camera. I imagine I'll get a lot of noise, but have noise reduction if I need it, if it doesn't wipe out the comet pixels. Later.


63 posted on 12/09/2004 9:42:49 AM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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To: Right Wing Professor

Any chance we could suggest some left-wing kook kult to hitch a ride ala Hale-Bop?


64 posted on 12/09/2004 9:46:25 AM PST by add925 (The Left = Xenophobes in Denial)
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To: alancarp

Thanks for posting the sky chart showing where to look for this comet.


65 posted on 12/09/2004 10:09:27 AM PST by RJL
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To: Angry Enough
Comet LouHolz?

Lol!

66 posted on 12/09/2004 10:14:11 AM PST by Ignatz (Strategic Air Command: Peace is our profession...........bombing's just a hobby!)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Thanks, I work nights and have some old binocs from the early 1900's but they still work fine. I'll look again tonight.


67 posted on 12/09/2004 10:39:54 AM PST by ChefKeith (Life is GREAT with CoCo..........NASCAR...everything else is just a game!(Except War & Love))
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To: Tealc

Those are gate symbols.


68 posted on 12/09/2004 10:42:08 AM PST by Rebelbase (Who is General Chat?)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Space Ping


69 posted on 12/09/2004 10:45:32 AM PST by alwaysontheright
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To: Right Wing Professor

thanks. I will be in big sky country on jan6- should I look next to pleiades?


70 posted on 12/09/2004 10:45:34 AM PST by beebuster2000 (waiting waiting waiting)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Excellent -- that's what we out-the-backdoor-and-look-up amateurs needed!


71 posted on 12/09/2004 10:57:03 AM PST by alancarp (When does it cease to be "Freedom of the Press" and become outright SEDITION?)
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To: apastron

Thanks for the info! Even more amazing he does it all manually.


72 posted on 12/09/2004 1:07:44 PM PST by Joe Miner
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To: Ignatz

Thank you. I'll be here all week.


73 posted on 12/09/2004 2:53:51 PM PST by Angry Enough
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To: Rebelbase

I see a vague resemblance... :)


74 posted on 12/09/2004 3:05:10 PM PST by Tealc (Mail me if you want on or off my Jaffa, Kree! ping list)
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To: Angry Enough
Thank you. I'll be here all week.

...or until the produce hits the stage. Try the veal.

75 posted on 12/10/2004 9:06:14 AM PST by Ignatz (Strategic Air Command: Peace is our profession...........bombing's just a hobby!)
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To: Right Wing Professor
AWESOME COMET VIEWING THIS MORNING!

I got up this morning and saw what I thought was a jet con trail far off on the eastern horizon as the sun was rising. But a few minutes later I noticed that it wasn't moving much, so I started looking closer. Bith binocs it's an amazing sight.

It looks to have a very large "head" with a wide, but fairly short tail. Maybe the comet has broken up or something, and maybe we're seeing the tail from an angle.

But it's at least as bright as that evening comet a few years ago, Hale-Bopp I think it was. Highly recommended viewing for anyone up before dawn. Just look east!

76 posted on 12/22/2004 7:44:43 AM PST by Siegfried
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To: Right Wing Professor
great post thanks!


77 posted on 12/29/2004 9:42:25 AM PST by bedolido (I can forgive you for killing my sons, but I cannot forgive you for forcing me to kill your sons)
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To: REDWOOD99
"All I see is the moon and a bunch of dots"

LOL. Good one.

78 posted on 12/29/2004 9:48:45 AM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
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To: Zuben Elgenubi

Well, with that screen name, I'd expect to find you here!

Easily seen in the bright skies of phoenix, especially with binoculars. I am not in the mood to trudge out my enoumously inconvenient 6 inch reflector and plug it in and all that, its 25 years old and very analog!


79 posted on 01/06/2005 6:45:29 PM PST by Central Scrutiniser (I'll never have that recipe again.......)
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To: Central Scrutiniser

Bump.

I just went outside and the binoculars really bring that little fuzzball to life.


80 posted on 01/06/2005 11:28:31 PM PST by Thinkin' Gal
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To: Central Scrutiniser; Thinkin' Gal
Some of the Makusov-Caselgrain hybrids are very nice and portable. One of my scopes is a 127mm MC with equitorial and slew that's perfect for johhny-on-the-spot viewing and it's great to travel with. Setup is about 7 min. It's the cooldown that's the time sink. :-)

ThinkinGal, Glad to be an activated fuzzball and nice to see you again.

81 posted on 01/08/2005 2:15:31 PM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
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To: Zuben Elgenubi

Yeah, I gotta get a computerized scope, this one I have is good, but I have never been able to get it balanced correctly enough to follow the stars correctly, plus, you have to set the Lattitude on it manually, using a screw. But, its 1980 technology.

As for the comet, we have been raining and flooding all week here in Phoenix, not good enough to bring out the scope.


82 posted on 01/08/2005 3:27:15 PM PST by Central Scrutiniser (I'll never have that recipe again.......)
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To: Right Wing Professor
New Comet Now Visible to Naked Eye

Yeah, now all we need is for the friggin' cloud cover to abate in the NE. I'm looking forward to seeing this comet near the Plieadeas - but you have to be able to actually see the sky first.

83 posted on 01/08/2005 3:29:14 PM PST by dirtboy (To make a pearl, you must first irritate an oyster)
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To: Right Wing Professor

I tried looking at it just now but everytime I turned up, the snowflakes kept getting in my eyes. Maybe tomorrow night.


84 posted on 01/08/2005 3:35:12 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: dirtboy

I've had the same problem here in VA. I followed Machholz about every night from the bottom of Orion up through Taurus with my binoculars, but it has been cloudy for the last week.


85 posted on 01/08/2005 3:39:34 PM PST by flair2000
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