Tonight! Comet Lulin!


Earth and Sky reminds us that tonight is a good chance to see Comet Lulin, if you can see it at all from where you are.

Earth and Sky shows where to see Comet Lulin on February 23, 2009

Earth and Sky shows where to see Comet Lulin on February 23, 2009

Comet Lulin probably won’t be high enough in the east for decent viewing until 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Later at night is even better. At mid-evening, two respectively bright starlike points of light bedeck the eastern sky. The higher of these two lights is the star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion. Saturn is to the lower left of Regulus, its golden color contrasting to that of sparkling blue-white Regulus. If you can’t distinguish their colors with the unaided eye, try looking at Saturn and Regulus with binoculars.

Comet Lulin and Saturn will remain within each other’s vicinity all night long, until morning dawn finally washes them from the sky. Look for Comet Lulin and Saturn to swing highest up for the night around 1 a.m. on February 24, at which time they’ll be due south. If you’re up before dawn on February 24, look for Comet Lulin and Saturn in your western sky.

Astronomers believe this is Comet Lulin’s first trip into the inner solar system. There’s always an element of unpredictability associated with comets, especially a pristine comet like Comet Lulin. Comet Lulin may match, exceed or fall short of expectations, but there is no way to know for sure unless you look!

If you miss Comet Lulin by Saturn on February 23-24, try again on the night of February 27-28, when Comet Lulin will cozy up with Regulus!

I understand t The comet’s discoverer is a school boy 19-year-old university student in China, who found the comet in photos taken at Taiwan’s Lulin Observatory (usually comets are named after their discoverer, but not this time).  Way to go, amateur astronomers!  Way to go, cooperation between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

And, if you have really great telescope, here’s what you can see:

NASAs APOD caption:  Explanation: Sweeping through the inner solar system, Comet Lulin is easily visible in both northern and southern hemispheres with binoculars or a small telescope. Recent changes in Lulins lovely greenish coma and tails are featured in this two panel comparison of images taken on January 31st (top) and February 4th. Taken from dark New Mexico Skies, the images span over 2 degrees. In both views the comet sports an apparent antitail at the left -- the comets dust tail appearing almost edge on from an earth-based perspective as it trails behind in Lulins orbit. Extending to the right of the coma, away from the Sun, is the beautiful ion tail. Remarkably, as captured in the bottom panel, Comet Lulins ion tail became disconnected on February 4, likely buffeted and torn away by magnetic fields in the solar wind. In 2007 NASA satellites recorded a similar disconnection event for Comet Encke. Dont worry, though. Comet tails can grow back.  Photos copyright by Joseph Brimacombe

NASA's APOD caption: "Explanation: Sweeping through the inner solar system, Comet Lulin is easily visible in both northern and southern hemispheres with binoculars or a small telescope. Recent changes in Lulin's lovely greenish coma and tails are featured in this two panel comparison of images taken on January 31st (top) and February 4th. Taken from dark New Mexico Skies, the images span over 2 degrees. In both views the comet sports an apparent antitail at the left -- the comet's dust tail appearing almost edge on from an earth-based perspective as it trails behind in Lulin's orbit. Extending to the right of the coma, away from the Sun, is the beautiful ion tail. Remarkably, as captured in the bottom panel, Comet Lulin's ion tail became disconnected on February 4, likely buffeted and torn away by magnetic fields in the solar wind. In 2007 NASA satellites recorded a similar disconnection event for Comet Encke. Don't worry, though. Comet tails can grow back." Photos copyright by Joseph Brimacombe

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3 Responses to Tonight! Comet Lulin!

  1. We also had good observation of this..

    Like

  2. paulboylan says:

    I ——- hate that comet.

    Like

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