Sunday 10 November 2013

Yes! I've seen Comet Lovejoy!

Having seen reports of this Comet putting on a good show in the morning sky near the famous Messier 44 Beehive cluster, I was excited to get home from my local pub and have a look for it.

So excited in fact, I kept putting the moment off! I mopped up Kemble's Cascade - really trying hard to spot the 9th mag stars in the chain, took in the Orion Nebula, enjoyed the Orion starfields, managed to glimpse Messier 41, and observed Monoceros and the Christmas Tree and Rosette clusters found within.

Then I shifted my location, and looked for Messier 44 over the rooftops. It was about 230am. The Beehive is visible to the naked eye from my urban "garden", and I had a good view in my 10x50s. But the comet had of course moved, and I had to rove around a little beffore I found it, a condensed, slightly elongated, teardrop shaped, blob of light, brighter than Messier 13 but of similar size. The elongation seemed to be pointing back towards the cluster. There was no sign of a tail.

The condensation wasn't uniform. There seemed to be two different levels, with a distinct nucleus.

It was just out of the same 10x50 field of view as M44, at about 8 o'clock in tthe direction of the Leo sickle.

I punched the air in delight. It's still a big deal for me to see a Comet. But I did have to have a panic, as I wondered if it might perhaps have been Messier 67. But it looked rather too bright and condensed, and further checks today indicated that it must have been the comet, as Messier 67 lies further away from M44 in the direction of the head of Hydra.

So there we go. It wasn't an amazing sight, perhaps I would have picked up a tail under country skies, but I was still thrilled to see it. And by all accounts, it is putting on a much better show than ISON, for which those -18 magnitude estimates seem a very long time ago. Another tick on my comets list - from an urban sky, I think I do well to see them!

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