Comet Lovejoy

   So after waiting for the skies to clear both here in Missouri and during a week in Tucson the sky was finally clear enough last night to see Comet Lovejoy. After my Astronomy class last night a few students stayed late with me outside away from campus lights in front of the ST building. From there they were able to see Jupiter rising in the east, and the stars making up the ‘Winter Hexagon’ asterism as well as the constellations associated with each of the stars. The sky was dark enough so that the Orion Nebula was visible to the naked-eye, however the comet was not visible until I brought out binoculars. Finding it last night and the next few nights should be easy as the comet will be passing a few degrees from the Pleiades.

Update:

   Last night (Friday) was another clear one, this time with temperatures in the 40’sF. I was able to take multiple exposures and managed to get the camera focused even when the lens was out to 250mm. The comet was easy to find as it was nearly straight off from the Pleiades. With binoculars it still looked like a fuzzy blob shape.

   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Halley Came to Jackson

   The other day I posted about Comet Lovejoy and its proximity to the Keystone of Hercules. This morning color me frustrated! My opportunity for getting any pictures of Comet Lovejoy have vaporized! The past couple of mornings have been cloudy or hazy which is somewhat normal for this time of year, but adding to my astro-misery is the Moon, now at full phase, lighting up the sky from the west while the Sun, not quite up, is already making the eastern skies too bright to see the Keystone stars of Hercules let alone the much dimmer Comet Lovejoy.

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   So as a sort of consolation here is a picture from a Science Educator colleague from Tucson AZ who takes many of his pictures from Kitt Peak where the skies are much darker and clearer than around here in west-central Missouri. Be sure to visit Robert Sparks at his Flickr pages to see more of his pictures of celestial objects.

(Click here to see the complete full-size banner graphic.)

Below is a wonderful video and song by Mary Chapin Carpenter about Comet Halley to brighten our day!

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Hercules and a Comet

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   In the morning skies before the local time for sunrise are the two stars that one follows from the arc in the Big Dipper’s handle — Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman and Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Also part of this early morning cosmic scene the planets Mars and Saturn are visible. This graphic to the right shows a view of the sky including the two stars and two planets plus Comet Lovejoy. Comet Lovejoy is currently at about 9th magnitude making it too dim for naked-eye viewing but certainly within the reach of binoculars and telescopes, and of course time exposure pictures as you can see in this beautiful picture taken by P-M Hedén that appeared on the APOD River website on 13 December.
hercules
   Locating Comet Lovejoy should be relatively easy as the comet is within a few degrees from the keystone-shaped asterism that forms the chest of Hercules the Hero. Using 7×50 binoculars the entire asterism fits within the field of view of binoculars and if one scans toward the right away from the Keystone Comet Lovejoy may come into view – assuming the sky is dark enough.
M-13

M-13

   You may notice a fuzzy appearing object on a line between the stars Eta Hercules and Zeta Hercules. This is the globular star cluster known as the Hercules Cluster or M-13 from the Messier Catalog.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.