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Wed, 13 Jan 2016 - Comet CATALINA Approaching the Big Dipper and a Fly-by of M101

Comet CATALINA US10 (which I'll just call CATALINA from now on, ok?) is now very much an evening object for northern hemisphere observers now, and is actually so close to the Pole Star that it is circumpolar from UK latitudes (meaning it never sets below the horozon, it just wheels around and around the Pole Star through the day and night) so you can start looking for it as soon as it gets dark where you live.

CATALINA is now sliding up towards the tail of Ursa Major - or the handle of The Big Dipper, however you see that famous pattern of stars - so is very easy to find in binoculars and small telescopes.

Here are a couple of images I took early this morning from here in Kendal, using a star traker and a digiral SLR. They show the comet's dust tail is now very curved and broad. They don't show the fainter, thinner gas tail, but other images - taken with much better equipment and under much better skies than mine! - show it is several degrees long and very straight.

 

Charts on previous posts will show you the comet's track over the rest of January - and will show you why comet observers and photographers have their fingers, toes and everything else crossed for clear skies above them on Saturday (Jan 16th) night because that's when CATALINA will drift past one of the prettiest and most photographed galaxies in the sky - M101.

Here's where to look for the comet and galaxy mid evening on Saturday...

 

  

 

...and a closer look at where they will be in relation to each other...

 

  

 

Here I've put together  images I took of M101 (R) and CATALINA (L) this morning, using exactly the same equipment and settings for both to show  hw they compare in size and brightness - you'll see they appear quite similar in size, but the comet is a lot brighter...

 

  

 

Hope you manage to see the pair on Saturday night - if you do, let us know...

 

Added by: Stuart Atkinson