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Comet Lulin Now Visible In Binoculars


Roger J Smith

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Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Comet Lulin is now visible in binoculars

    Comet Lulin, also known as Comet 2007/C, is an unusual retrograde visitor to our solar system, travelling in the opposite direction to all the planets, asteroids and just about all the other comets. Its orbit as calculated has an eccentricity a little greater than 1, meaning that it is on a parabolic arc that will probably not allow it to be captured by the Sun's gravitational pull, so this is either its last, or its one and only, visit to the inner solar system.

    The comet will be very easy to find in binoculars on Monday night if you have clear skies (it can be found tonight as well, but few will read this in time). The path of the comet is basically along the ecliptic plane in the opposite direction taken by the planets, but tomorrow night at 00 GMT it will be just to the south of Saturn.

    Saturn is very easy to find after 11 pm, it is high in the SSE at that point, and reaches transit (south) at about 1 a.m. Just look for a slightly coppery hued whitish object a little brighter than the stars anywhere near it, or almost as bright as Sirius which you will find setting in the south-west at this time (Venus will be gone by 8 p.m.).

    Once you find Saturn, train your binoculars on it, allowing it to sit in the viewscope a little above the central point. Comet Lulin should appear as a greenish oval in the lower half of your scope. If you are going to try for a view in following days, check the maps in the Sky and Telescope on-line article on the comet, or just use this rough guide: it will be near Regulus, a brightish star to the right of Saturn, by the 28th, so assume a steady motion through that space and sweep the area to find it.

    I'm hoping for a view of it here either tonight or Monday night, but as I am eight hours behind the UK, the comet will either be lower left or lower right of Saturn on these two occasions. If our eastern N American readers want to try for it, you'll have to wait until the storm moves away mid-week, I think.

    Comet Lulin has already passed its perihelion on its retrograde orbit, back in early January, at which time it was about 1.1 times the earth's distance from the Sun, around where we'll be in late March. Now it is more like 1.4 times our distance from the Sun, so inside the orbit of Mars, and its closest approach comes around the 25th and 26th as we pass in opposite directions. Although it appears close to Saturn in the sky, of course it won't be very close in three-dimensional space, and there is no encounter with Mars or any other planet on this orbit, they are all basically on the other side of the solar system for the next few months at least. So, unless it's a disguised alien spacecraft, it will hurtle on into the void and probably never have a close encounter with another astronomical object for the rest of its existence.

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    Posted
  • Location: East Coast Canada
  • Location: East Coast Canada

    I observed Lulin early Friday morning. The conditions were not ideal with a very slight haze.

    I got in less than a minute with the binoculars (10X50). It was probably magnitude 5.5, it was primarily Grey in color. I did not note any green. But then this could have been due to the hazing.

    When I was finished with the binos, I used the 10 inch Dob scope. I was surprised the quality did not improve that much. Again probably due to the atmospheric transparency.

    However, it is still very much worth try to observe it. Especially if one has dark skies.

    If we get better weather during the week I will try for a photo or CCD. But the weather looks real iffy as of now.

    I'll attach a sky chart of Lulins position in proximity to Saturn for tomorrow night (Feb 24). Just right of Saturn, designated with a red cross, center screen. View is to the South, time is 21:00 hrs from the UK.

    It's really starting to 'pick-up' velocity now and changes position night to night .

    post-9215-1235403952_thumb.jpg

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    Posted
  • Location: Powys Mid Wales borders.
  • Location: Powys Mid Wales borders.

    Skies have cleared amazingly, and I`ve just seen the comet in binoculars,reminds me of the very first one I ever saw.

    Looked out for Leo first,saw this shown on the sky at night with the northern lights.

    Friday night it`ll be just below Regulus.

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