Monday, February 23, 2009

Comet Lulin Tonight

Tonight is the best time to see Comet Lulin. It is bright enough to see naked eye from dark sites, but probably not from most suburban backyards. However, even a small pair of binoculars should make it visible from most sites. I have a pair of 8x42 binoculars and have picked it up with them.

Comet Lulin is farther from the Sun than the Earth right fact, its almost opposite in the sky from the Sun. It rises shortly after sunset and is visible most of the night until sunrise. The best time to look is around midnight to 1am local time when it is highest in the sky. As an added bonus, Comet Lulin is near Saturn tonight and visible in the same binocular field! That makes it nice and easy to find...find Saturn (which is bright and you don't need a telsescope to see) and you find Comet Lulin. A finding chart is below.

Start by finding the backwards question mark of Leo. You should then be able to pick out the bright Saturn. Center your binoculars on Saturn, scan slowly southeast if needed, and you should run across the comet!

You can see the comet for the next few days pretty well, but by early next week the Moon will be getting brighter and interfering. The comet is moving rapidly across the sky, so look for upated charts at sites such as Spaceweather. Comet Lulin rapidly moves away from Earth and will dim quickly in early March.

Happy hunting!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.


kkdither said...

1 am, I'd never make it! I might be able to make the 9:30pm cheater way to see it. Besides, it is too cold around here to be going out in the middle of the night and looking up.

Got clouds? No problem. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia, plans to webcast the encounter. "We're going to transmit the view through our observatory's 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope," says astronomy professor Rosa Williams of Columbus State University. "The webcast begins at 11:30 EST on Monday, Feb. 23rd and will continue until 5 a.m. EST on Tuesday the 24th."
Tune In

MinnesotaChick said...

woohooo!!!!!!!Thanks KK!

It is a bit chilly to be standing outside at 1 AM. Neighbors might think I am weird standing around staring at the sky. Oh wait.. I do that anyway..

hale-bopp said...

I got it here a little while ago with my 8x42 binoculars. I also photographed it. You can see it but it is small. I might try cropping and enlarging the photo a little and see if I can get it to come out better. Probably won't get to that until tomorrow night though.