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See Comet 41P With Binoculars

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Comet 41P comes to visit, here is how to spot it
Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák comes to visit Earth every 5 years. In May 2017 it should be bright enough to view with binoculars. Though interestingly this comet has been known to flare, which can make it visible to the naked eye as happened in 2006.

Photo of a comet courtesy of NASA
Photo of a comet courtesy of NASA

About the comet

Comets are balls of mostly ice that orbit around the sun. The famous comet tail is gas steaming off the comet as it is heated by the sun. While movies show the tail streaming out behind the comet, the fact is the tail shoots out in the direction of the sun, so it can proceed the comet rather than trail it.

Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák was first discovered in 1858 by Horace Tuttle, but its long name comes from the fact it was then rediscovered in 1907 by Michel Giacobini and then again by Lubor Kresak in 1951.

Viewing the comet

Between May 1-15 you should be able to see the comet with a decent set of binoculars though you would do better with a telescope. Getting away from city lights is always a good idea for observing the stars, but you should be able to see the comet from a suburban backyard.

You will need a fairly clear view of the horizon as the comet will not have much elevation, especially as dawn approaches. The moon will interfere somewhat with your comet viewing, so keep an eye out for moonset times. You want to start watching shortly after the moon goes down.

Because of the orbital location don't expect to see a huge classic comet trail, but instead you should just see it as more of a fuzzy ball, and perhaps a short tail.

On May 1 you should be able to see the comet just a little the right of the constellation Hercules and it will continue to rise in the sky over the 15 days. It is best to download a night sky app for your phone or tablet to help you locate and track the comet.

Image of the constellation Hercules courtesy of Till Credner @ Wikimedia
Image of the constellation Hercules courtesy of Till Credner @ Wikimedia


Comets also hold fascination because they can be one of the most spectacular astronomical events. However most, like comet 41P, tend to be little fuzzy balls visible only through telescopes or binoculars. But it can always be fun trying to spot them.
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Why? A chance to see comet if you have binoculars or a telescope
When: Best seen in the early hours of the morning before dawn
Where: In the night sky in the constellation Hercules
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Another great astronomical article Roy. All we need now is for the slies not to be overcast.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7002) 875 days ago
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