Monday, 26 January 2015

Comet Lovejoy and the Triangle

Mananged to get a sneaky peak, as they say, at Comet Lovejoy after I arrived home from work.  It is easy to find despite the near first quarter moon, lurking in the same binocular field of view as Gamma Triangulum, the star that marks the eastern point of the base of the celestial triangle.

Again, there seems to be less structure around the nucleus; it may be because of the moon but the comet seems to be sporting a rather rounder, more evenly bright look than before. Perhaps it is because Lovejoy is getting further away.

I'd certainly recommend trying to get a look tonight or perhaps tomorrow night, because with the moon getting brighter, and the comet fading, it may get quite difficult to observe with binoculars.

Ah Triangulum, that most romatically named of constellations. The most does-what-it-says-on-the-tin constellation. It looks like a triangle, so they called it the Triangle. The Babylonians tried to be interesting and call it "The Plough" thousands of years ago, but the Greeks called it "Deltoton", because it looked like the Greek letter delta, which is triangle shaped. Since then, it has been "The Triangle" to Ptolemy and everyone else into the modern era. A boring name for a boring, three cornered little group of stars.

The actuality is that it is an interesting little patch of the sky, with Messier 33 the Triangulum spiral, also visible in binoculars; 3C 48, the first quasar to be observed, and various other nearby galaxies observable in moderate telescopes.

There are plenty of other dull constellations that could be called "Square", "Circle" or "Squiggly Line" but poor old Triangulum gets the bullet. Presumably a triangular one.


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