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Gotcha! October 29, 2007

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, personal, science.

I saw the comet tonight, finally! From my home in Venice, amidst a veiled sky. Lights everywhere, the moon rising, limiting magnitude a meager 4-4.2. I was looking through a pair of 25×100 chinese binoculars, a nice instrument but unfortunately hand-held (no tripod whatsoever!). It is tough, since it weighs 10 pounds…

But 17/P Holmes was glorious! Three shells one within the other. A inner false nucleus, bright, almost yellowish although I would not swear on that (we are talking about a surface magnitude of the inner core of about 14.5 per squared arcsecond, a brightness which should allow some color to be seen in some cases…), surrounded by a larger ball of bright grey goo. And a fainter, larger, round sphere encaging the whole thing. Blue in pictures, but to me it was a miracle to see it given the very poor observing conditions…

I have found, however, that the involuntary small motion of objects as seen from a trembling pair of binoculars at high power helps seeing faint diffuse details. That is because the eye is more normally driven to use averted vision, which is more apt for low brightness detection.

In any case, a fantastic comet. Highly advisable with any instrument, from grandpa’s brass vintage scope to a kid’s toy binoculars. Even by eye it was showing a clear non-stellar appearance!

I was especially proud of being able to show it to my son Filippo (8). Not an easy feat with a hand-held monster binoculars having a field of less than three degrees!

If all is well, come Saturday I will be observing it with my 16-incher from a dark site… I’ll cross fingers.



1. Ed - October 30, 2007

It really is spectacular, isn’t it? Not your typical comet shape, but interesting because it changes so much each day. Post photos if you can. I’d love to see what it looks like through at 16in scope.

2. Kea - October 31, 2007

Congratulations! Wish I was down there in the North!

3. Tony Smith - October 31, 2007

Kea, maybe for Comet Holmes you wish to be “down there in the North”,
don’t forget that about a year ago with Comet McNaught it was the other way around (see the great images at, for example, the Sky and Telescope Photo Gallery for Comet McNaught – just put those terms into google and look at the many pages of images, the most impressive of which were for Southerners only).

Tony Smith

4. dorigo - October 31, 2007

That is correct, Kea should not complain 🙂


5. dorigo - October 31, 2007

Hi Ed,
yes, it is very odd – we are looking at it straight in the direction of the sun’s wind, so the tails are just spherical surfaces to us. Very nice to see… I hope to look at it through the 16″ this Friday. But I will not be taking pictures… Not an instrument for pics, really.


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