Jan
12
2007

Bright comet makes brief northern appearance

Celestial visitor: Comet McNaught appears over Duluth, Minnesota's Spirit Mountain.
Photo courtesy Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
Celestial visitor: Comet McNaught appears over Duluth, Minnesota's Spirit Mountain.
Photo courtesy Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
Comet Hale-Bopp in the Minneapolis skies in 1997: Will Comet McNaught outshine it? Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
Comet Hale-Bopp in the Minneapolis skies in 1997: Will Comet McNaught outshine it? Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
For us in the Northern Hemisphere, Comet McNaught –one of the brightest in decades- will be visible for a short time on the horizon just before sunrise and just after sunset.Faint showing: Comet McNaught hovers over an outbound jet above Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, MN, January 12, 2007. Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
Faint showing: Comet McNaught hovers over an outbound jet above Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, MN, January 12, 2007. Photo courtesy Mark Ryan

Comets, often called “dirty snowballs”, or perhaps more precisely “icy dirtballs”,
are composed of ice, dust, snow and gas, and are believed to originate in the far reaches of our solar system in a hypothesized area of space called the Oort Cloud. They are invisible to us until they orbit near the sun and reveal their glowing tails. Recent space probes have gathered more information about their composition .

According to NASA astronomer Tony Phillips, Comet McNaught is six times brighter than 1997’s Comet Hale-Bopp, and 100 times brighter than Halley’s Comet when it last appeared in 1986.

“It will remain a spectacular comet for weeks, perhaps months, in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “It could emerge as the brightest comet in recorded history.”

Weather permitting, Comet McNaught should be visible just after sunset today (4:54 CST Jan. 12 at Latitude 45° N) in the west-southwestern sky. Once the sun sets, locate the bright planet Venus about 11 degrees above the horizon in the southwest, then look down and to the right for Comet McNaught. You may also spot it just before sunrise (7:49 CST Jan. 13 at Latitude 45° N). About twenty minutes before the sun rises would be a good time to look. The comet should be visible just to the south of due east.

MORE INFORMATION

More about Comet McNaught
More about comets
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Comets throughout history
More Science Buzz comet info
Comet probe analysis

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

I just saw this in an e-mail.

Observers around the world are reporting that Comet McNaught is now visible in
broad daylight. The comet is very close to the sun, so it is tricky to find. If
you want to try, here's how to do it: Go outside and stand in the shadow of a
building so that the glare of the sun is blocked out. Make a fist and hold it
at arm's length. The comet is about one fist-width east of the sun.

posted on Sat, 01/13/2007 - 5:39pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

I was able to see the comet in broad daylight today from Minneapolis.

It would have been easy to spot if not for cirrus clouds blocking the view. It is currently about five degrees (left) east of the sun at noon. As the sun sets, the comet will be to the southeast of the sun and above it. It is rapidly moving south so if we get clear skies any time during the next few days take a look. Unfortunately a weather system has moved into the area obscuring our view for at least the next day or so. It will not be visible in the daytime for long...so get out and take a look as soon as it clears!

This amazing astronomical show that is truly a once in a lifetime event.

I placed the only two snapshots I was able to take while it was visible today...

http://home.earthlink.net/~shedofscience/images/comet/

See spaceweather.com for some great daytime images.

Also, NASAs SOHO sattellite is capturing the spectacular show. http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/

Russ Durkee
Shed of Science Observatory
Minneapolis

posted on Sun, 01/14/2007 - 3:52pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Thankyou for confirming that we can see it in Minnesota. I tried this morning but had trees in the way. The sun was plenty bright though and I came close to burning my retina so be careful. Next chance I get, I will go outside for I good vantage point. Here is a working link toSpaceweather's photo gallery of comet McNaught (page 7) You should be able to click back (or forward) to other pages using the navigation bar on the top.

posted on Sun, 01/14/2007 - 4:19pm
David R. Brandt's picture
David R. Brandt says:

Russ D.,

Is it possible to get a tour of the observatory?

I live just north of Hopkins.

posted on Sat, 06/30/2007 - 1:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow i am amazed!

posted on Sun, 01/14/2007 - 3:07pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I just gave it a try here in Lansing, Michigan, and couldn't see it. Am I too far south? Am I trying at the wrong time of day?

posted on Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:39am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

here in california you can see the comet, its really big and bright, do you know why no one has mention anythig about it

posted on Sun, 04/29/2007 - 11:46pm

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