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Finder Chart for May 27 - June 1
News Archive (April-May 2006)
May 26: Jim Gifford points out that the main components have moved close enough together now that they can be seen in the same wide binocular field. That would certainly be a sight!
May 25: B has continued to fade, but both C and B remain nice binocular/telescope objects. These comets are rapidly becoming southern-hemisphere objects. The next few nights will be the last chance for mid-northern latitude observers.
May 20: Component C is being reported as much brighter than B, which has continued to fade.
May 18: There are some reports that component C may be starting an outburst. Various observers are now reporting that "B" is in fact fading. Imager Clay Sherrod reports that, "...the "B" fragment is singular appearing, with one large conspicuous cloudy knot at PA 340 degrees, about 2.2 arc minutes from the nucleus; the total magnitude appears to be fainter than 24 hours ago..."
May 17: component B is again being reported as brighter than C, but there is a lack of current estimates due to moonlight so it is difficult to confirm or put a magnitude on it. Component B has also shown more activity in the tail direction in recent images.
May 15: there are reports that component B may have begun another outburst.
May 14: component G is reported to have faded well beyond visual detection.
May 13: there are reports that component B has faded somewhat, yet is still quite a sight in the eyepiece with lots of detail visible.
May 11/12: Now that the comet fragments are passing close to the earth they will appear to move very quickly across the sky. Tonight they will be moving about 16' every hour. Motion should be obvious against the background stars in just a few minutes. Although fading, component B is still in outburst. Both components B and C are spectacular in larger telescopes. Don't forget to scan along the line between C and B (and past B) for other components that might flare at any moment!
May 10: Component B has reportedly become brighter than component C! It is a naked eye object even in moonlight. There are also reports of arcs and jets. Bill Weir reported that, "When It slid into the FOV I was blown away. Although smaller, it looked as good if not better than C had ever looked. I couldn't believe how bright it looked even with all the Moonlight." There are signs that the outburst may already be in the decline so get this one tonight if you can!
May 9: Component B remains bright and has developed jets in images! I urge observers using telescopes to use high magnification on the nucleus. Hale-Bopp showed amazing structure in the eyepiece related to similar jets. You never know unless you look!
May 8: Component B has brightened again. Bob King reports, "The comet's nucleus is very bright and nearly stellar in a small 30" coma."
May 7: Component C will pass over the Ring Nebula tonight: 2006 May 8 03:05 UT (May 7, 11:00p EDT). The close approach will last about a half hour. The comet will first be within a degree of M57 2h15m prior to the event, and will pass beyond a degree about 2h15m afterward. For North America this pass will occur in moonlight.; the comet will be rising in the east during the event, seen lower in the sky as you go west. Western observers will miss the closest approach altogether but will be able to see the two objects near one-another as they rise. In southern Europe the event may be visible in darkness prior to dawn, but is highly dependent on location.
May 4: Component B continues to evolve quickly. There are reports that it has faded and become more diffuse. Bob King, observing with a 10-inch, reports "Using 357x I resolved a compact cloud or condensation immediately following the nucleus of B that made the nuclear region look like a very close, fuzzy double star."
May 3: there are as yet unconfirmed reports that B is in outburst (which means it may have brightened significantly) as well as an abrupt change in morphology of the nucleus.
May 2: images are once again showing a double nucleus in component B
May 1: C is naked eye, B is obvious in binoculars, G is difficult, R is in outburst and now visible in an 8-inch telescope. See the Current Appearance section below for more info.
April 30: Component C is a confirmed naked-eye object.
April 29: There have been several reports lately of component R being seen in 10-inch or larger instruments, and at the same time several reports have circulated that component G has faded from view or become diffuse and very difficult. Given the high surface brightness of component R it might be visible in a 6-inch telescope tonight, and it is also possible that it will continue to brighten nightly, so I urge observers to have a look for it. A visual observation of G would also be very helpful, even if not seen (it is important to report null observations!)
April 28: there is a report that component C has been seen naked eye. I believe this is entirely possible from a dark site; few magnitude estimates have appeared for this fragment in the last few days, and given the small coma diameters being reported and larger aperture being used to make the estimates, I have believed for some time that the magnitude of this comet has been estimated too faintly. Binoculars and a dark site are a must when making magnitude estimates of components C and B!
April 27: Component G has split into many small fragments (image); component R is once again in outburst! Users of 8-inch and larger telescopes should try to view fragment R; it is reported to be small so it may well be visible. Here is an image from last night of component R by Clay Sherrod.
April 26: the trailing fragment of component B has been designated "AQ" by the IAU
April 25: various observers are reporting that component B is somewhat brighter and has developed a stellar nucleus again. Will it continue to brighten? Tune back tonight for the answer, if your weather is clear!
April 24: there is report from Europe that component B has undergone an outburst. No news yet on how much it has brightened visually.
April 23: there is an unconfirmed report that the G component has split
April 22: Alan Whitman reports seeing two cores in component B in his 16-inch: "...at 366x there were two definite concentrations in the coma, each about 4 arc-seconds in diameter, and separated by about 11 arc-seconds ... The two fuzzy concentrations are aligned along the same axis as the tail. The leading one (closest to the nose of the comet) was a little brighter and held a stellar pseudonucleus."
April 21: Images of component B from last night are clearly showing a double nucleus as the fragmentation of B continues. Here's an image from last night by Clay Sherrod Observers with 8-inch or larger telescope should try to see these visually! Note that they will likely appear much smaller than in images, like tiny, very faint stars poking through the haze. Of course, beware of mistaking them for faint stars... to be certain check back later to confirm they have moved with the comet.
April 20: I observed components C, B, and G last night with my 18-inch. Component C is quite a sight in the telescope! Like a miniature naked-eye comet. I could trace the tail out to at least 20' at 94x. B appeared smaller and narrower, with a diffuse elongated coma and narrow fan-shaped tail about 10' in length. I thought I saw a hint of smaller fragments in the tail near the coma but couldn't confirm it. G was more difficult, appearing as a ghostly dash of light; a faint elongated glow about 6' long, with no central condensation. I tried hard to see component R, but was not able to spot it. See the sketches in the link of the day for very good representations of what I saw.
April 19: there has been much discussion about possible fragments seen in images of the tail of component B and it is finally becoming clear that they are real; see the image link of the day below.
April 18: Alan Whitman reports that he was unable to see component R in his 16-inch from a dark site
April 17: I observed fragments C, B, and G last night with a 6-inch from a dark site. Although about the same size as C, component B is now much less distinct, lacking the brighter core seen in C, and making it appear much fainter than C. I was unable to spot G, but Alan Whitman reports that it appeared as a "just an averted vision blur, better seen at 51x than 64x and difficult at 102x" as seen in a 8-inch.
April 17: component B is fading and is very diffuse
April 15: component B may have undergone a fragmentation episode but it is still intact and about the same magnitude as the C component (~9th mag).
April 7: component G has brightened to 13th magnitude, visible in amateur telescopes. Component B (~9.3) is now brighter than C (~9.7).
April 5: there are reports that component "R" has brightened to 15th magnitude and "B" is now 9th magnitude.
Component C appears as a small spot of haze to the naked eye from a dark site (without moonlight). To spot it naked eye it is best to locate it in binoculars first. In binoculars it appears as a hazy dash of light. Averted vision should reveal more than at first meets the eye; you may be able to see some haze extending out two degrees in the tail direction. This comet really shines in a telescope, with better views with increasing aperture. At the eyepiece it will be unmistakable--like a miniature great comet.
Component B is similar to C, although now it is the brighter of the two and has more of a fan shape. It has been spotted naked-eye, even in moonlight. This component has a history of changing from night to night. Small fragments can be observed in 8-inch or larger telescopes in the tail area. They may appear as a hazy cloud, or even as tiny knots. The nucleus may also appear split in two under high magnification. Jets and arcs of material may be visible near the nucleus under high magnification.
Component G was last observed as a very diffuse spot of haze. Moonlight will make visual observations of this fragment impossible for some time. It has faded greatly in images and this fragment may well have disrupted entirely.
Component R was last observed many days ago when it had undergone an outburst. Moonlight is now interfering and there have been no observations for some time.
Click for the link of the day -- a terrific animation showing the motion of component B on May 16 by Thad V'Soske
The nuts have arrived folks, with their web sites spreading doom and gloom. Will fragments of this comet strike the earth? Answer: No. The main stream of expelled material will pass 25 times as far as the moon, with the closest fragments coming no closer than many millions of km.
Are the fragments, both large and small, exploding outward at high speed? The answer is again no. This is primarily an illusion that comes about from the motion of the comet toward us. As the comet comes closer the various fragments appear to be spreading apart much faster than they really are. A similar effect is occurring where, as we get a closer look, we see more and more smaller fragments. I believe that although smaller fragments are constantly splitting away, much of what we have been seeing in the past days and weeks are existing fragments that are being revealed to us for the first time as the comet comes near.
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Further reading: see Comet Chasing, Sky & Telescope, April 2005, pg. 83.
All predictions and charts were made with my SkyTools 2 observing software. Specific information regarding its many unique comet observing features can be found here.
My Other Pages:
Main Comet Chasing Page
Skyhound's Guide to Comets
Skyhound's Guide to Finding Comets
BAA Comet Section
The Comet Observation Home Page
Astronomical Headlines (IAU)