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A naked-eye comet to brighten our nights next month! January 9, 2009

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, news, science.
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Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3), discovered by a team of  Chinese and Taiwanese astronomers, is approaching the inner solar system these days. It is currently shining at 8th magnitude and it shows both a tail and an anti-tail, as the picture below (taken from the Spaceweather site) shows. Lulin is expected to reach 5th magnitude in early February, when it will be visible with the naked eye or, better, with a pair of binoculars.

As with any comet, magnitude forecasts are a tough call, but in the case of Lulin, they are even more uncertain because the hyperbolic path of the comet suggests that this will be its first approach to the inner solar system. Under such circumstances, the sun’s radiation pressure and gravitational force may cause it to brigthen significantly.

The site linked above provides ephemeris and sky maps. So take the dust off your best pair of lenses and get ready for a show!