Comet Lulin is a naked-eye object! February 19, 2009Posted by dorigo in astronomy, news, science.
Tags: amateur astronomy, comet, lulin, solar system
Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is approaching the minimum distance from our planet – the conjunction will occur on February 24th at a distance of 61 million kilometers- and is already a naked-eye object in the sky, glowing at a visual magnitude of +5.6 with what is described as a bright green colour. The coma has a diameter of 20 arcminutes (two-thirds of the Moon’s diameter). As you can see from Jack Newton’s picture below, the comet shows both a tail and an anti-tail, with a bright oval coma.
The conjunction is very convenient given the absence of any moonlight, and its position in the sky, almost perfectly in the opposite direction with respect to the Sun. A pair of binoculars, even low-power ones, will reveal the comet easily from your back yard even in light polluted areas, while under dark skies you should be able to detect the comet even with the unaided eye; a telescope should be used with low magnification to show the comet in all its glory. The object moves quickly in the sky, and its apparent motion is easy to detect if you have patience to observe the comet for a while.
You can find the comet in Libra today and tomorrow (check the map below -click to enlarge), while at conjunction on Feb 24th it will be in Leo, just a few degrees due South of Saturn. In a few days its brightness could increase by another magnitude (magnitudes in the chart are not necessarily correct).
For a beautiful gallery of images of this beautiful comet, I advise you to visit the Spaceweather site.