Sunday 11 January 2015

Comet Lovejoy in the Newark Haze

Newark has always had a peculiar micro climate. The twin effects of the River Trent, the valley it flows along, and the emissions of the sugar factory, always seem to be the recipe for a hazy sky at certain times of the year. Sadly, tonight seems to be such an occasion; the night sky has an odd glow about it too, the reflection of the much mentioned sodium streetlights.

In the garden, the wind is still strong, moving the dangling chimes around with errie chings of metal on metal. A motorbike is growling in endless oblongs of irritation around the block. There are foxes too, howling in the distance.

Breeding season will soon be here, if this mildish winter hasn't triggered it already.

So it is an atmospheric night, but sadly, not a great one for comet observations. The haze might not be affecting star visibility too badly, but it is a deadly suffocant for the light of diffuse objects like comets and nebulae.

Nonetheless I was able to find the comet quite easily in my 10x50s, lurking rather closer to the Hyades now, almost in the same field as the star at the cluster apex. In appearance, there is a very definite elongation to the North-East, with hints of a tail, even in this poor seeing.

I've read the magnitude is now something around 3.9 which means under a clear moonless sky it should be easily visible to the naked eye, highest in the South at about 8pm-9pm. But in town, you will still need binoculars to get any kind of decent view of this once-every-eight-thousand-years visitor.

Who's eyes were watching Comet Lovejoy the last time it was here?


No comments:

Post a Comment