On 24th October this year (2007), Comet 17P/Holmes showed a rapid increase in magnitude. Often quoted as a mag 17 object, this comet brightened to magnitude 7 during the one night. By the end of October the comet was quoted as magnitude 2.5.
Throughout that time the clouds at my home remained steadfast in their determination to block the view but for just 1 hour last night they broke allowing a truly magnificent view of this comet. After enjoying the view visually, I had just enough time to grab a few frames with the 20D, here’s the resulting image …
Did you know that the name ‘Comet’ comes from the ancient Greek description of these objects “aster kometes” or long haired star! At the time of my image above, 17P/Holmes was calculated to be 1.621au from Earth. The image shows both core and some coma of 17P/Holmes. Any tail would currently be pointing pretty much away from earth and therefore be difficult to observe. The coma of a comet is often made up of ice & dust that has been super heated whilst the comet passed by the sun; any tail is formed of particles that are pushed away from the comet by the pressure of light from the sun. This Comet was discovered by Edwin Holmes in 1892, during a lesser outburst. Plenty of additional scientific data is available on NASA’s site.
To view the Comet, you currently need to look at the constellation of Perseus, 17P/Holmes’ path is making a loop through Perseus & will remain there until spring next year. It is currently visible with the naked eye, binoculars or a small telescope will show more of the fuzzy details. For up to the moment co-ordinates download Cartes du Ciel & use the finder tool on 17P/Holmes.