Comet 17P/Holmes

By akarshsimha; Published 01 Nov 2007

Well, it was a tiresome job, but definitely worth the effort. Yesterday, Prasanna, S.V. Vikram and myself carried IITM's Celestron 8" GT all the way from the Applied Optics Lab in the Mechanical Sciences Block to my hostel, and finally with the help of many more, the telescope landed in my hostel's terrace.

Nature left clear skies for us and we were able to catch a glimpse of the miraculous comet which clearly appeared to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch, not existant before, in the constellation of Perseus. The view through the 9x50 finder was the next view that I happened to see, while I got the object into the field. Even through the finder, it was absolutely marvellous and you could clearly see gradation in brightness from center to periferri. And finally, I had one of the best views I've had ever in my life so far, through the eyepiece. The comet's tiny, bushy 'tail' was distinct with averted vision. Prasanna, who was also all excited by the sight and many others around were able to see the tail as well.

 We switched magnification to something like 200 ~ 300x (didn't care to note the eyepiece focal length!) and the view was simply awesome. It showed absolutely no colour, but the milky bright, white was itself awesome. I wish I had a digicam to focus it. Hopefully will see it again tonight :-D

This is the first time I'm seeing the institute's Celestron 8" f/5. It's optics are amazing. It sits on a GOTO Equatorial (Celestron GT) mount - but there's a long time before we try out the GOTO features, because Dr. Suresh had identified that the mount is made for higher latitudes and cannot be used at our latitude. He had some correction and we may have to run back to him for that!

The whole experience was awesome. We also tested the power of the telescope in its clear rendering of distant office buildings, aeroplane-warning lights - and the images, just like those of M31 or Pleiades were flawless! Pleiades, Comet Holmes and the Moon were the most enjoyed by all.