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A Comet as a Catalyst


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Times have been busy, and I hadn't made it out to look for Comet C/2021 Leonard until the morning of 12/2.  The moon is dark and there are no clouds, which is seemingly impossible, so even though I have work I decide it's time to get myself out of bed for a go at it.  I head out with the big binos at about 05:00, and start at Arcturus.  It doesn't take me long to find M3, then the comet.  Beautiful sight!  I have Class 2 Bortle skies from my yard, and the tail of the comet was long and easily observed. As has been a recent observation with the binoculars, I was surprised by the amount of satellites I saw pass through my EP.


12/3- I got myself out into the cold before work again.  I had actually brought all of the components of my Celestron C8 down into a cold entry on the house, and had been ready to set up the big scope for a go at the comet as it passed by M3.  However, as I got myself out of bed and dressed I realized I would have more observing time if I just went straight out with the binoculars again, and so I went.  The comet was a little further from M3 than I had expected. This was 12:00 GMT in the western USA, so I had missed the closest conjunction, not to mention it would have been below my horizon anyway.  All the same, a beautiful sight that I took in for about 15 minutes before my gaze got distracted.


I headed west to Auriga and quickly found M36 and M38.  Both look like starfish to me.  I took a look for the Flaming Star Nebula and could pick out the stars but no nebulosity.


From here I swung over to the north and took a look at Mizar and was able to see the view of both Alcor as well as the Mizar double.  I didn't have to travel far from there to pick out M51.  I could clearly see both galactic centers, and with averted vision I could just barely make out spiral lanes.  I then swung over to M101.  It didn't take me long to find, and the center stood out, but the galaxy was much more diffuse, and though I could make out some of it with averted vision it wasn't as interesting as M51.


Having taken in the sights on the top of my mind, I stood back and just admired the sky without magnification, facing west as the eastern sky was just starting to get slightly milky with early morning light. As I looked up I saw 2 very obvious naked-eye satellites, one headed north and the other south, almost crossing paths. Had I seen either one on a random night without reference, I would have thought it was the ISS.  However, upon consulting SkySafari neither was the ISS, and I don't know what they were other than bright satellites.  This is combined with the fact that just seconds after they crossed paths, almost directly center-sky, a meteor crossed right between them, perpendicular to their paths.  I am not one to love the increased presence of satellites in our night skies, but it made for quite the momentary light show!  At this point I was getting cold and headed back inside, but once again it was well worth the early rise from bed and enduring the cold for an early morning treat!

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