Monday, 11 October 2010

Comet 103P/Hartley 2

It's slightly murkier tonight with clouds moving in, so I decided to just go out with the binoculars and track down the latest comet to grace our skies, Comet 103P/Hartley 2. I have a big soft spot for comets because they look like deep sky objects but are transient, and only visit us for a short time. Comets can go either way, they can either be big and bright and even Joe and Jane Public are aware of their presence or they can be tiny, small, faint and elusive. As comet hunter and deep sky observer David Levy once said 'Comets are like cats. They have tails and do precisely what they want', indeed comets that have been predicted to be bright have been disappointing and vice versa. Sometimes comets that have been predicted to be big and bright have been just that but, comets often prove astronomers wrong!

103P/Hartley 2 is not bright but it is big. It's also obvious in a pair of 8x42 binoculars and I found it quite easily where it presently lies in Perseus. It's heading towards Auriga and is supposed to brighten by the end of the month but, as is usual, the Moon will interfere.
In the binoculars it was large - much larger than I expected, ever so slightly elongated, diffuse and with a brighter core. It also looks quite green.

I took a couple of photos of the comet, and have indicated it with an arrow pointing towards it. The photos illustrate not only the comet but also why I am not an astrophotographer - they are not the best! They were taken with my Canon 40D and a 70-200mm lens at f4. Click for enlargements.

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