Comet Holmes Gets Bright

[UPDATED 16-Nov-2007: Updated placemark below to reflect new position of Comet Holmes - still visible to the naked eye, very noticeable with binoculars or a low-powered telescope! Also, added an image and link from Sky & Telescope which shows the positions of Comet Holmes over the next few weeks.]
A comet called 17P/Holmes, not normally visible to the naked eye, on October 24th suddenly burst a million times brighter. Scientists believe the comet is a ball of dirty ice which has cracked open and revealed new white ice which is reflecting the sun much brighter. The object is still dim to the naked eye, and it appears like a normal star. But, the fact it can be seen at all is highly unusual. Read more at Space.com.
Surprisingly few news reporters even mentioned how to find the star, or published the coordinates. But, I did find the coordinates and quickly made a placemark so you can view the location in Sky of Comet Holmes. It is in the constellation of Perseus. I plan on checking it out tonight. We need to teach journalists to start publishing KML files to point out the locations of their stories – whether it be somewhere on Earth, or somewhere up in the sky. By the way, thanks to my friend Jim Scotti who is an astronomer at The Spacewatch Project. See a picture he took with a regular SLR digital camera showing the comet.
[UPDATE: I found it in tonight's sky quite easily using the view from Sky. Amazing!]

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. I get a star icon over a spot in British Columbia. What am I doing wrong?

  2. Observed Comet P/Holmes on October 25th and October 26th, with the naked eye and binoculars. On October 25th I estimated the comet at 2m.5 in the early evening and 2m.4 later on. It was brighter than Delta Persei, and obviously fainter than Alpha Persei.Through binoculars it appeared yellowish (grade 3 on the Hagen Scale) while the degree of condensation was reckoned at 8. The coma was 2′.6 across, and had a bright central condensation that was off centre. This was subsequently confirmed using my 80mm refractor and on photographs taken through the refractor and a 135mm telephoto lens using a x3 teleconverter. On October 26th., it was still at 2m.5

  3. I have posted a kmz file with the above mentioned photograph in it in the Google Earth/Sky community. With your placemark it is easy to find. We at Space Telescope are using some open source software that allows us to place such images right in Sky, creating a kmz file along the way to share.

  4. Wendy Shields says:

    A nod & a wink to Frank for posting this placemark. Seen this evening in broadwindsor, Dorset with naked eye & wonderfully through binoculars!

  5. Colin Henshaw says:

    Observed Comet Holmes again last night (11-11-2007). The comet was very large, and tear-drop shaped, with a distinct central condensation and a central spine attached. For the first time I was able to detect a tail, but I could hardly define a boundary to it with any confidence. However, I’m positive it was there. It was about three times the diameter of the bright coma, and approximately aligned along a PA of 200 degrees, but these values are vague at best. The comet is now approaching the crowded starfield around Alpha Persei, so this may make the visual documentaion of any tail structure more difficult, unless it brightens up.
    Colin Henshaw, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.

  6. There is a new website dedicated to Comet Holmes:
    http://www.comet17p.com
    There is news, links, location, and it is updated regularly!

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