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michael.h.f.wilkinson

November 13, 2013: A Tale of Three Comets but just one Tail

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I got up at 4 this morning to do some comet hunting. The sky was clear overhead, but haze was making visibility poorer towards the horizon. Occasional threatening clouds passed, so I did not dare set up the scope. I got out the 15x70 bins, checked the finder charts for the comets, and headed out. Lovejoy was best placed by far, I aimed the bins above Leo's head and WHAM, there was the comet. A very bright core, large coma, and in averted vision a hint of tail. Very pleasing. I checked out the transparency of the sky by looking at M101, and could barely make it out, so conditions were not that good. M81 and M82 were nice, but I have seen them look better as well. I tried getting a look at C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) which has undergone a large outburst recently, and found that it was still too low. ISON was also hidden. I went back to bed for a short nap, and got up again at 5:40.

Because Virgo was largely hidden by trees, I walked over to the football fields behind my house (and said trees), and managed to find a faint blob in averted vision close to Arcturus. It was very hard, due to the haze, but I repeatedly found (at least four times) and its location fitted the finder chart so comet number two found. ISON was playing hide and seek in some low haze/fog, so I went back home. I couldn't resist giving ISON one more try, this time from a first-floor window, and lo and behold, I spotted a "star" at a 2-3 degrees left and below Porrima, which showed a bit of fuzziness in averted vision. I went away from the object and found it again a couple of times, and it persistently showed a bit of fuzziness which brighter stars around it did not show, so it couldn't be a case of glare. The position also fits with the charts, so comet number three bagged. As the sky was already brightening a bit, I was not surprised that I could see no tail.

So this is clearly my best comet chasing session to date, as I raised my (fairly meagre) tally of comets from 6 to 9 in one night. Obviously I felt very pleased, but duty called, as the alarm clocks went off at 6:30, and I had to make breakfast, chase up the kids, make lunch boxes, etc.

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Nice report Michael - well worth getting up early for.  It's such a lovely autumn morning.  I had a look for Encke also, but no joy. It's moving towards Mercury so will be a good signpost.

andrew

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I still have ISON and Encke to track down. A lack of low horizons from home will mean a trip out with the big bins. Maybe the next clear morning!!

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Nice report Michael - well worth getting up early for.  It's such a lovely autumn morning.  I had a look for Encke also, but no joy. It's moving towards Mercury so will be a good signpost.

andrew

Thanks. I took one look at the position of Encke and gave up. It is too low, and it would probably be too faint for my bins anyway.

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I still have ISON and Encke to track down. A lack of low horizons from home will mean a trip out with the big bins. Maybe the next clear morning!!

Best of luck with your hunt for these comets.

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Great report, Michael, and congrats on hauling three!!!   That is quite a bag in one sitting, so to speak!  I've got Encke in the calendar late this month when it nears Mercury (which I'm hoping will make it easier for me to locate it.

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Great report, Michael, and congrats on hauling three!!!   That is quite a bag in one sitting, so to speak!  I've got Encke in the calendar late this month when it nears Mercury (which I'm hoping will make it easier for me to locate it.

Thanks! Proximity to Mercury might help, but I have yet to see a morning apparition of Mercury from my current observing site. Not just trees but a whole city in the way

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Nice, success always feels great :D I've yet to attempt anything like a comet, but every time I go out there is so much new DSo stuff to work on. 

Interesting about the conditions, across the pond here I found something similar in that low down the sky was quite messy and made for poor viewing, but higher up it was rather quite good at times. I've never seen Jupiter  warp, bend in that many contortions that much before :0), yet naked eye the sky looked excellent,  it was clearly quite unstable for high mag viewing at one point. I never experienced such a big difference going from zenith and working down,  but below 30 degrees from the horizon it was just quite messy most of the time, not that it ever is that good below that point where I am with parts of city interfering and all, but this time it was so much more so.

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Nabbed the lot in 37x100s this morning. 2012-X1 was very difficult! Encke was surprisingly easy, despite its low altitude.

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