Comet 8P/Tuttle

Contributed by
Jan 1, 2008

Via Tom's Astronomy Blog I learned that there is a bright-ish comet in the sky for northern viewers. Called 8P/Tuttle, it's hovering right at the edge of naked-eye brightness.

I went out last night after checking Tom's skymap, seeing that the comet is almost straight overhead after dinnertime. That puts it in a difficult spot for binoculars, but there is a good signpost: the long, skinny triangle of the constellation Triangulum points right at the comet!

So I mounted my binocs on the tripod, put on my flannel-lined pants, my parka, and my gloves (it was about 15 degrees F last night), and headed into the backyard. The nearly vertical alignment of the binoculars did indeed make this difficult, but the comet is easily bright enough to spot: it was a big fuzzy patch about a degree across. However, it's spread out so much that I doubt it's really naked-eye visible. I'll note that at first I wasn't sure if I was seeing the comet or the big face-on spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, which is pretty close tot he comet's position. I went inside to check my own star chart and saw I had the comet.

So I'd recommend trying for it if you have a small telescope or binoculars. It's very pretty (no tail, but still cool). Spaceweather has been posting tons of images of its encounter with M33, as has my own Bad Astronomy & Universe Today bulletin board. If you get some pictures, post 'em to BAUT! And check out this picture of the comet with Comet Holmes; it's incredible.

And I'll try again tonight, but this time I'll leave the tripod indoors, and use a chaise longue instead. It'll be more comfortable!

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