11 January 2005

Spying Comet Machholz

    At 4:12 I picked up a faint fuzzy object, rather small. I looked closely to see if it was a double star or a small grouping of stars that simply appeared fuzzy. It was not. I then grabbed my star map to see if there were any known galaxies or nebulae in the area. It took me a couple of minutes to determine exactly where I was on the star map. There was nothing shown on the map.
All that rain and cloud cover subsided last night and I was able to check out Comet Machholz. Unfortunately it had reached its brightest somewhere under all those clouds, but it was still visible in binoculars and the 22mm eyepiece. Right now it's near the Pleiades, so it's easy to find. It was further west than this article describes, as I was a few days later. However, thanks to Heavens Above I was able to get a precise location.

My daughter got to see it too. I told her it was a giant snowball, to which she responded, "Oh Daddy, you're kidding." I explained that on this particular occaision I was not pulling her leg and proceeded to describe what a comet is and how it orbits the sun, complete with visual aids. She wanted me to draw the comet in the picture, which I did. Shortly thereafter she was back to watching her new fish, but I think she got something out of it. I know I did....

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