Hunting for Comet Holmes at Home
Hello Maryland, beautiful state of Constitutional importance, flora and fauna, sea technology and sky lovers… you’re flag is interesting and your clicks are feeding into me on October 26.
I was hunting for Comet Holmes in Ontario tonight. You know the one? Have you heard the news?
This thing apparently exploded a day ago and is reflecting a huge amount of light back to earth. Whereas before you needed a telescope to see it, now you can see it with the naked eye.
The comet was observed at about magnitude 14.5 since July and had showed signs of a slow fading; however, very early on the morning of October 24, Juan Antonio Henr’quez Santana (Spain) reported that the comet was much brighter than expected.
I grabbed the telescope my buddy left here (THANKS!) to try and find the sucker. Thankfully, the molded rubber eye-peice is the exact size of my cameras lens sheath! It easily held the camera in place by itself while the camera took the picture for 3 seconds without disruption or vibration.
How to Find Holmes 17P
In toronto, wait until about 8pm. The following instructions will guide you on how to find the comet around 8:30pm Toronto time. First, you need to grab a compass, and preferably an inclinometer to tell what angle you are looking up at.
Next you need to locate the constellation Perseus. Pretty much the easiest way to do that is to locate Cassiopeia. This looks like a giant sideways “W”. Look down and a little to the right, and you’ll make out Perseus from there.
Find the brightest star in the Perseus constellation. This is called the “alpha” star, as it is the biggest and the brightest (has the lowest ‘magnitude’). The exact position of this “alpha” star is at direction 51° (Northeast) and altitude 34° (up).
Here’s the diagram from my great program called “Cartes Du Ciel“. It is literally the best program ever produced for amateur and professional astronomers, and kicks all other programs I have ever tried in the pants. It has night mode, can integrate with motorised telescopes and GPS, has extensive international libraries, supports tonnes of languages, and it’s free. GET IT.
Then, you look a little to the left of the alpha star to find the comet.
Information and Resources
You can find some other information about Holmes from:
This is a great page that tells all about the recent comet Holmes explosion and show in pictures how it’s changing. It also describes how the comet was originally found in November 6 1892 by E. Holmes from England.
Spaceweather.com has a great page with photos of Holmes from amateur astronomers. You should sign up for their email alerts! They’re great! If you live in toronto, remember, the Spaceweather.com maps are drawn for people who live at The Equator, so their representation of where the constellations are different than we see the sky here up north.
Heaven’s above has sky charts that are localized for your city. You don’t have to sign in to select your location, but I did so that Newmarket is my default. Unfortunately these guys haven’t re-classified the magnitude of Holmes, so you’ll have to find the constellation Persuis. Update : Heavensabove has just updated their page to now include Comet 17P Holmes.
Right Ascension (J2000) 3h 51.6m
Declination (J2000) 50° 15′
Distance from Earth 1.631 AU
Distance from Sun 2.446 AU
Perihelion 2.053 AU
Aphelion 5.184 AU
Period 6.88 years
Inclination to ecliptic 19.1°
This is only the small version, the big version is AWESOME, but it’s 4MB. Please email me if you want a copy.