Society for Popular Astronomy

Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope
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Author:  mike a feist [ Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Monday 3/12/18, 2227. Went to bed very early as clouded over and had a bit of as headache. Awoke at about 2215 and saw that most of the sky was now very clear. Rushed out into the garden in my dressing gown with my Monarch binoculars in hand, located the quadrilateral of stars mentioned previously and thought that I could see a fuzziness near star pi and the two nearby fainter stars, so quickly carried the Acuter 65mm on a tripod outside and... yes!yes! YES!!!!!!! There it was!!!As a fuzzy patch with indistinct edges and maybe brighter in centre. The time was 2227. Wow!!! It was Not difficult to see! I followed it for a few minutes, until it was clouded out again but I did not care! I had finally seen it and, given clear skies, it can be easily seen in small instruments. Regards maf (a joyful cometwatcher). (Obs.#1)

Author:  mike a feist [ Tue Dec 04, 2018 7:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Tuesday 4/12/18. 0050-0100. Clouds began to clear, so I got up and went into the garden with the scope. Orion was superb with the Nebula , M42, appearing in the Acuter spotter as if it had wings! Then I looked for Comet Wirtanen again. The field was now very low down but could be located at in the southwest, between the southetn roofs and the wall of my house, but rather suffering from poor transparency as it "headed for the hills" (Southwick Hill). I had finally once again found the comet, which was definitely visible as a fuzzy blob as before but rather washed-out by the murk. (Obs.#2) Regards maf

Author:  nigeljoslin [ Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Ooh, wow...well done! I did astronomy last night but forgot all about the comet!!! :lol:

Author:  brian livesey [ Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Come what may Mike, we all knew that you'd bag it in the end :wink: . The comet is reported as being visible in averted vision. See today's .

Author:  David Frydman [ Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Well done, Mike.
It was transparent last night.
Frost this morning and clear skies.

It seems that the comet may be mag 6.8 visual with unaided eyes in a very dark sky.
M81 is about that and some people have seen it, though I never really tried.

So in a small scope it may be magnitude 7.5?

A large diffuse comet is considerably brighter in terms of visual magnitude to unaided eyes compared to a scope.


Author:  mike a feist [ Wed Dec 05, 2018 7:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

I rarely try to estimate the magnitude of comets as, although I am aware of the different methods suggested that you can use, to me it is rather like trying to measure fog! Equally, only a very rough estimation of size seems realistic, especially in a case where it has a faint faint coma with indistinct edge fading out to nothing. I often compare them to various globular clusters, although this is frowned upon by some experts and is, no doubt, very dependent on the equipment used. But at least for general and personal notes, although not very scientific (and I am not really a scientist!), it does give a general idea. Regards maf.

Author:  Brian [ Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

I tried these last days on a couple of occasions with my 10x50s when the comet was due south each time but saw nothing in my 3mag skies (at that altitude). Higher up though , Orion and its retinue blazed away.

According to reports on the Sky and Telescope and Spaceweather sites, Comet Wirtanen is now visually as big as the Moon , visible in 7x50 binoculars and easy to image with DSLR and a short focus lens.

Will try again :)

Author:  mike a feist [ Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

The web page in which I read of the comet being " as large as the Moon" also contained an photograph of the comet and the Moon side by side to show this...but in the illustration the Moon seemed to me much larger than the comet!! Regards maf.

Author:  mike a feist [ Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Comet Wirtanen (46P): Friday 7th December 2018: @ 1958 + 2118 hrs. Clear skies! Observed from the back garden, using (mainly) Acuter 18-48x65. The field stars were easily found, consisting of the neat row of stars rho 1, rho 2 & rho 3 Eridani and a couple of fainter stars above them. Initially the comet appeared as an amorphous, ill-defined fuzzy patch with a 9th magnitude star within it. At the later time, the vague coma had moved away from this star. I then tried using the Nikon 8x36n binocular and the Opticron aspheric 8x40 and the comet was visible as an indistinct fuzziness. I then tried pushing my luck, and used the 8x30 USSR binocular and surprisingly, it was possible even to glimpse the fuzzy spot in that...using averted vision certainly helped! (Obs.#3) Regards maf.

Author:  mike a feist [ Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Saturday, 8th December 2018: 2037-2044 UT. After clouds and rain in the afternoon I was surprised to find a large gap in the clouds before bedtime. Grabbed the opportunity to see the comet again, although conditions were not very good. Used the Acuter spotting scope, but this time replaced the 18-48x zoom eyepiece with a 15x fixed one. Comet now well above the three rho stars, the new field-stars were now a neat triangle, with two of the components being 5 & 7 Eridani. This triangle pointed to the comet which was immediately visible despite the evening light pollution and bits of passing cloud. The comet appeared as a central fuzziness that faded out into the surrounding sky at the ill-defined edge. The best and easiest view to date! ,(Obs.#4). Regards maf.

Author:  Brian [ Sun Dec 09, 2018 6:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Still have not seen the comet, but it is being reported as a naked-eye object by some observers: for Dec 9th

Author:  Cliff [ Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Dear Mike
Great stuff seeing the dreaded comet - unfortunately I'm a bit late seeing your 3rd December report. I've been having enough trouble trying to observe the Sun recently so doubt if I'll observe the comet myself these cool evenings.
Best wishes from Cliff

Author:  RMSteele [ Sun Dec 09, 2018 10:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Dear All, 2018 Dec 09 2130-2200 UT. First identified the field in 8x30 binoculars, but the comet was not seen, unsurprisingly under strong artificial illumination in Leeds' skies. Next, I searched with 10x50 binoculars from the slightly darker back garden. There, I suspected "something" with difficulty and averted vision. I tried with 15x63 binoculars from the same spot and was able to confirm that the "something" was indeed the comet; just discerned with direct vision, but of more certain extent with averted sight; large, faint, and giving the odd impression of being somewhat irregular. I attempted to estimate its brightness by comparison with a grossly defocussed, nearby mag 5.0 star. I would say it was possibly a little fainter than that, impossible to be accurate. I tried with a F5 80mm refractor and was unable to see any trace at x16. Only by darkening the light polluted field with a 15mm Tele Vue plossl at x27 was I able to see a trace of the comet, but the view was hardly better than the 15x63 binoculars. Interestingly there was no trace in my F10 90mm refractor at x23.
The message is that, even now with the comet a little higher up it is a difficult object from town skies and inexperienced observers will be best advised to stick to something like 15 or 20x70 binoculars. Mike's success with small binoculars is a triumph of skill and experience. Kind Thoughts, Bob

Author:  nigeljoslin [ Mon Dec 10, 2018 8:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Hiya folks,

Last night, I at last got a look at this comet under a crisp mag. 6 sky. I first found it with my 9x63 binoculars...easy, a large diffuse area of fuzz!

Turning the 14 inch Dob its way with the lowest power eyepiece in (66x) revealed quite a comet of character! A large, diffuse, circular area of about 1 degree surrounded its bright centre, and then within that area a distinct, symmetrical tail could be seen either side of the central region, lagging it at an angle of about 45 degrees.

The next stage of my observation was to slip in a UHC filter, which increased the definition of the tail. Then it was time to apply magnification for a look at the central region. Increasing steadily up to 410x showed a single, circular bright centre.

Well worth waiting for; I look forward to seeing it again! :D

Author:  mike a feist [ Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Comet Wirtanen seen in spotting scope

Re my sky and light pollution pollution and seeing the comet,I guess my location is not over light polluted as when compared to some. From the back garden, standing under the 6ft south fence ( to hide a particular bathroom light that is always left on) later in the evening, direct lighting is generally not a problem, unless it is windy and some security lights keep coming on or the football spotlights may cause problems. The row of houses hide the streetlights in the south. From the front of the house however, street lighting prevails aargh!
Below this note I add another two observations of this comet. It seems to me that the small binoculars show it well at present. No chance at all of me seeing it with the unaided eye.

Sunday: 9th December 2018: early evening, 1845 UT. Comet visible, using Acuter15x65 spotter through the double- glazing upper window, near to 95 & 94 Ceti - near the later appearing as a fuzzy smudge despite evening lights and then at 2005 UT then from the garden, the comet was seen to have moved considerably. Sky was generally clear with some passing cloud, which increased and so finally went to bed . (Obs.#5).

Sunday:9th December 2018: late evening. 2230-2335 UT. Awoke to find the sky clear, so took the 15x65 scope into the garden, and despite still some light pollution, the comet was well seen among the faint run of stars above 94 Ceti. Then put the scope away and concentrated on using the USSR 8x30 binocular, handheld but elbow rested. Comet Wirtanen was pretty obvious in this as fuzzy smudge with indistinct edging. Compared the comet to M36, M37 & M38. These were very high up and the comet fairly low down, but I would say that M38 was nearest in appearance to the comet, although the comet was a bit smaller perhaps. (Obs.#6).
Regards maf

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