Saturday, January 01, 2005

Comet Machholz -- Part 2

Tom beat me to Comet Machholz, although I must confess I haven't looked for it yet. With his prompting, I certainly shall now, especially as it reaches maximum brightness in the next week or two. On the evening of January 7 the comet will pass a few degrees west of the Pleiades, a perfect guidepost, and is predicted to reach magnitude 4, a naked eye object if you are in a dark place -- such as Tom's new house in the country. The tail will sweep across the Pleiades; you can be sure that the astrophotographers will be having a field day -- er, night.

These days most comets are discovered by machine on photographic plates. Don Machholz is America's premier telescopic comet hunter, with ten comets to his credit in 30 years (7000 hours) of comet searching. Like Tom says, it's fun to see a comet; it must be much more satisfying to have your name attached to ten of these celestial visitors.