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Tue, 22 Dec 2015 - Comet CATALINA brightens as it climbs higher...

Although it is, to be honest, a less than inspiring sight visually - little more than a fuzzy star with hints of twin tails in binoculars and small telescopes - and British observers like myself are struggling to catch even a brief glimpse of it, due to the horrendous weather we're experiencing, Comet CATALINA US10 is certainly delighting astrophotographers across the northern hemisphere, now that it is climbing up out of the near-horizon murk and glowing in a darker sky for several hours before dawn.

The SPA's own Robin Scagell took this photo of CATALINA earlier this week...

Robin kindly sent me some details: "The attached shot is a combination of three with total exposure time 20 sec using my 17-35 Sigma at 35 mm"

Miraculously, I managed to get a couple of images of CATALINA myself the other morning from here in Kendal, during an all too brief gap in the cloud and rain. Because I didn't have a long enough gap in the rain to set up my tracker and take the  long exposures I wanted, these are crops of stacks of 30 or so four second images taken with my Canon 1100D DSLR, through a 50mm lens, with a high IS) setting and its aperture wide open. Not very impressive, I know, but I was just delighted to get anything, and they do show a vague, "out of the corner of your eye" hint of a gas tail going up to about 1 o'clock...

 

 

No "Astrophotograher Of the Year" award winners there! If you go to the "Live comet images gallery" on the popular Spaceweather.com website you'll see lots of images of CATALINA taken by astrophotographers, many showing intricate and beautiful details and structures in the comet's gas tail. As gorgeous as they are though, I worry sometimes that images like these give beginners a false impression of what a comet looks like. A photograph taken through a high powered telescope, with a state of the art camera and other equipment, then processed by an expert, can make even a very modest comet look like something from a science fiction film, and this is happening with CATALINA. Photographically it's a gorgeous comet, with a gas tail sporting billows, swirls and curls of lavendar and blue rolling downwind of the nucleus, but it looks nothing like that through an eyepiece, and to the naked eye is just a faint star.

Over the past few days there have been reports of CATALINA being visible to the naked eye, but these have come from dark sky viewing sites in Cyprus, not from more populated, more light polluted areas. But let's be positive! Maybe CATALINA will be bright enough to just be visible to the naked eye from a dark sky location near you by Christmas..!

The previous post shows you where to look for CATALINA at the moment, and I'll post new charts soon.

Good luck hunting, everyone!

 

Added by: Stuart Atkinson