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Day 84: Comet McNaught January 8, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Links.

***UPDATE (01/15/07): Comet position has changed since this post. Click here and here see the latest post on this topic***

Today started with large group activity in which students lined up around the room ordering some objects from small to large – everything from the radius of a proton to the height of Mount Everest to the radius of the observable universe. We will continue working with the concept of the Scale of the Universe over the next few days.


Also today we discussed an exciting astronomical sighting that is ongoing this week: Comet McNaught. After discussing the definition of a comet together in class, we viewed a few sky maps and directions (see below) on how to spot the comet. After a fruitless attempt last night, I was able to spot it on the western horizon this evening and encourage all of you to try the same. I will show some photos tomorrow in class and online.

The sky maps (1, 2, and morning map) and directions for viewing available online were lacking the kind of detail that my amateur astronomer tracking experience called for. As such, I’ll detail my experience with a few practical tips that may help you find Comet McNaught from your location.

  • First, Use the Sky and Telescope Comet McNaught Sky Map to narrow in on the proper location.
  • I went out after the sun was below the horizon for about a half an hour. Tonight’s sunset was technically at 5:15pm CDT with the end of Civil Twilight at 5:44pm. This was about the time that I went out and set up.
  • The first object to become visible in the western sky this week (after the sun has set) is Venus. This is an important feature that you can use to find Comet McNaught.
  • The comet first became visible about 3 or 4 degrees above the horizon around 5:55pm. I found it by taking several “scanning” shots of the sky at about 100mm and zooming in on the image on the on-camera LCD. It may very well have been visible earlier, but I was still busy scanning a big portion of the western sky trying to find it.
  • I had along an inexpensive pair of 8 x 21 binoculars, but they weren’t very helpful until after I had already located the comet.
  • The horizontal distance between the comet and Venus was approximately two fists when my arms were extended in front of me.
  • The comet never became visible to my naked eye (my vision is not bad).
  • The comet dropped below the horizon at about 6:05pm.

More on this comet tomorrow, along with some work time on an individual “Scale of the Universe” project.

More photos and comet information on my own page.



1. Day 86: Scale Day 4 & McNaught « THS Earth/Space Science - January 10, 2007

[…] the last couple of posts (Day 84, Day 85) for more info on tracking and photographing Comet […]

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