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Hunting for Comet Holmes at Home

October 26, 2007

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.

Instructions on How to Find Perseus

Then, you look a little to the left of the alpha star to find the comet.

Sky chart of how to find Holmes 17P

Information and Resources

You can find some other information about Holmes from:

The wikipedia page about holmes

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. 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 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.

Geocentric Data
Right Ascension (J2000) 3h 51.6m
Declination (J2000) 50° 15′
Constellation Perseus
Magnitude 2.9
Distance from Earth 1.631 AU

Orbital Data
Distance from Sun 2.446 AU
Perihelion 2.053 AU
Aphelion 5.184 AU
Period 6.88 years
Eccentricity 0.432564
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.

The Object that I SawA scenic Shot of the Night Sky



What time it was
The Altitude
The compass position
Telescope specs
Telescope full

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2007 2:53 pm

    AWESOME pics. Especially the one of the sides of the houses and the sky. That’s a sweet telescope too. Thanks for this info, much appreciated.

  2. Andrew permalink
    October 26, 2007 5:39 pm

    Excellent shots!.The skies are suppose to cloud up this evening but,Maybe I can get out Sunday night(fingers crossed):) .

  3. realworldnumbers permalink*
    October 26, 2007 10:28 pm

    It’s raining out.

  4. Andrew permalink
    October 26, 2007 11:54 pm

    It is about to rain here as well…..Boooooooo! 🙂 .

  5. RealWorldMom permalink
    October 26, 2007 11:58 pm

    Great pictures, especially liked the one beside the house. Thanks for the information.

  6. October 28, 2007 8:08 am

    i had made the update about comet holmes17p every 5 hour in my blog. also in english. ALL ONLY ABOUT COMET HOLMES

  7. October 30, 2007 4:03 am

    I just took some video of the comet. I didn’t even know about it till a few hours ago, and lo’ and behold there it was in the sky!

    Cool pics man!

  8. October 30, 2007 4:37 am

    what a lovely photo … i envy you, since i heard the news about Comet Holmes and its brightening, night skies here (western Massachusetts USA) have been wet and overcast. (But MAYBE there’s SOMETHING I’ve seen in the northeast tonight which MIGHT have been it … largely by a process of elimination.)

    these gorgeous and exciting events are like cures and antidotes to our folly and pettiness here on Earth. Thanks for looking up!

  9. realworldnumbers permalink*
    November 6, 2007 2:50 am

    Hi Gang, just one last follow up comment.

    Probably the best picture taken of the comet up till now.. and I think it was taken with FILM !

    Comet 17P/Holmes on 11/4/07

  10. November 6, 2007 6:46 am

    I have taken a few timelapse movies of the comet over the past few days and am out every night that i can until its not visible anymore. its easy to get photos of this one.

    check then out here:


  11. Gene permalink
    November 17, 2007 4:53 am

    yea i was just out with my dad luckily its clear right now near philadelphia, and after a couple min of searchin i saw a very faint fuz directly under a star cleary visible with the naked i and looked good through binoculars.

  12. Tommie Wood permalink
    December 5, 2007 1:39 am

    Please send me the larger picture,
    tommie c


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