Saturday 23 August 2014

Yes! Comet Jacques Observed!

The news that Comet Jacques was going to be easy to find in Cassiopeia was, well, news to me. Obviously I'd known that this comet was going to be an observable object at some point - it has been discussed more or less throughout the year - but for some reason I always felt that it was just going to be out of reach with my 10x50s from my town garden.

However, I saw on twitter last night that it was going to be close to Delta Cassiopeii  and resolved to take a look once Cassiopeia had risen above the trees and rooftops that overlook my garden.

So, out I went at 2am with a fortifying drink, and got nice and dark adapted while letting my eyes take in the crystalline river of stars flowing south from Cygnus. It's always such a beautiful sight in my 10x50s, countless little star clusters and asterisms waterfalling down to Scutum on the horizon.

I couldn't find Messier 2, the Aquarius globular, but Messier 15 was visible, and it was clear enough to have a great view of the Triangulum spiral Messier 33. Nearby, the Pleiades had risen, the dread signal of colder months, and Capella's golden hue was also prominent by now.

Turning my attention now to the comet, I found it, but it was a tricky object and I had to check afterwards that it wasn't one of the numerous open clusters that Cassiopeia abounds in. It was fainter than the nearby NGC663 and Messier 103, and other than a noticeable elongation of the grey-green smudge, I couldn't really make out any detail. Certainly it was much less impressive than the comet from earlier in the year I observed in Ursa Major...can't remember the name alas. It was a seventh magnitude object I'd say.

But still, it was another comet I have observed, and I was really pleased to "tick it off." To think of these lumps of ice, tens of thousands of years out into the far reaches of their orbits, or perhaps even languishing in the Oort Cloud a light year away, always moves me.

Deep space is a cold, dark wonderland of mystery.

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