Comet Lulin - Observations and attempts - till now

By amar_universe; Published 02 Mar 2009

Here is a compilation of observations and attempts at C/2007 N3 (Lulin) in the few occasions that I have managed to get.


1) 4th Sept, 2008 - My first observation of it came on this date from our observing site Hosahalli, 70km North Bangalore. This was before the comet was even known to most people! My observing log says:

First was Comet Lulin (official designation - C/2007 N3) in Ophiuchus, near the star Xi Oph, reported at 9th mag. I aimed for it with the detailed finder chart with my 8" f/8 telescope, and with some difficulty came across a very faint and boundary-less patch, matching the finder chart. It was no bigger than 3 arc minutes (distance between 2 stars nearby). I couldn't do anything more with it!


2) 23rd Oct, 08 - From a dark sky site at Atgaon (near Asangaon) 100 km from Mumbai

Missed out on one observation, due to "setting up the equipment late", along with the nearby comet C/2008 A1 McNaught.


3) 28th Dec, 08 - From MTDC resort, Lonar Meteor crater, Buldhana dist, Maharashtra

The second unsuccessful trial was from the exquisite and black skies above Lonar Crater. But I had a Celestron 20x80 binoc then, and apart from being faint, it was lost in the glare of rising Scorpius Zodiacal Light at 5 am. I just couldn't spot this one.


4) 30th Dec, 08 - From a dark sky site at Atgaon (near Asangaon) 100 km from Mumbai

Lulin missed once again on from the same location due to "dew wetting all our equipment kept out in open, and uncovered". However I tried it with a 10x50 and my log says:

Everything was WET by the time we were out, and hopes for Comet Lulin were lost; we only had our dry 10x50's. I hand held the 10x50's and my experience DID reveal something existent for only a second or two. The conditions there were city-like. I would better wait for another session.


5) 6th Jan, 2009 - 5am. From our observing site Hosahalli, 70km North Bangalore with a 8" f/8 telescope. My observing log says:

It appeared as a small condensed globular, coma not very spherical in shape, around 5-6 arc-minute in diameter. Could not observe other details due to twilight and zodiacal light.


6) 22nd Jan, 09 - From our observing site Hosahalli, 70km North Bangalore with a 8" f/8 telescope. My observing log says:

The bright C/2006 N3 Lulin in Libra was quite visible in 10x50 binocs inspite of Moon being close to this one, and the next comet. The 20x80 gave a better view as a fuzzy globular, and the 8" scope did reveal a condensed fuzzy coma ~4-5 arc minutes in diameter.


7) 30th Jan, 2009 - From Kavalur Observatory, Tamil Nadu. Through the 8-inch finder scope atop the 40-inch (1-meter) telescope.

We got to image this comet through the 40-inch telescope itself!! It was an excessively large coma, nearly covering the computer screen. With the 10x50 binocs, it appeared just as a fuzzy spot.


8) 5th Feb, 09 - From a dark resort in Coorg, Karnataka Western Ghats. My observing log says:

Since I was totally unconnected from the internet world (well, even civilization) for 6 days, I did not know how far the Comet Lulin had moved since I last knew its position. Big deal, today dawn, I simply scanned the 10x50 binocs in Libra and there was this big, bright fuzz near the pretty double Alpha Libra! The gibbous Moon had set and the skies were pretty dark, not exceptional, naked-eye limiting magnitude (NELM) maybe averaging 6.3 mag.

Now, I tried to find Lulin naked-eyes. Plain averted vision did not work, it was to be extreme averted vision, and there was this very 'faint star' just to the left of star 5 Libra (6.33 mag). The more I stared, the better. This comet was a fraction fainter than the star, making me to place it at 6.4 mag; that's my naked-eye estimation of the comet. I estimated the NELM of the place using a close pair of stars in Centaurus (I cant precisely trace in software).


9) 20th Feb, 09 - From our observing site Hosahalli, 70km North Bangalore. My observing log says:

I got to observe Lulin today dawn from our sky observing site. It's core was just a fraction fainter than M13 (5.9 mag) hence I place it at 6.1 mag. The central condensation (nucleus) was around 8th mag (?) and the coma was pretty large and bright, atleast around 20 arc minutes. With naked eyes it appeared brighter than 6th mag, because it was large and hence easy to see.

The tails were pretty elusive. They were not visible with a 40mm Plossl eyepiece on a 8" f/8 scope, only hints of some fuzziness. With 10x50 binoculars, the faint anti-dust tail stretched for nearly 20 arc minutes, and was not extremely easily visible. The ion tail was more difficult, not visible and confirmable, except only for an instance when you peeped into the binocs. It was no more than 5 arc minutes, like a spike merged into the coma. Prolonged staring on the contrary did not work.

The comet's movement was pretty evident even in 1/2 hr. I am (surprisingly) having a problem finding the triangle of 'bright' stars within which this was located. Hence the number is approximate. It moved nearly 5 arc minutes in only 1/2 hr (?)


10) 22nd Feb, 09 - From a dark resort in Chikmaglur, Karnataka Western Ghats.

It was a big BAS star party with 15 participants at Chikmaglur Western Ghats. Of them, 6 of us (Pavan Keshavamurthy, Pavan Sarma, Rakesh Nath, Deepak Mallya, Praveen Sreeprakash and Me) managed to lie down, and hence hand hold my 5-kilo heavy Oberwerk 25x100 for prolonged time over-head, not imagining earlier that it would be the MOST stupendous observation of a comet we could make...all 6 had their jaws dropped! It's difficult to explain how beautiful the view of Lulin was through the large binoc (field of view 3.5 degree); something I could have gone staring all through the night!! Reminiscent of Comet 17/P Holmes' charm in the last months of 2007.

It displayed an extremely bright and distinct tapering anti-dust tail for around half the field of view, that puts it at approximately 1.6 degrees!! (I dont remember the field of view, to compare the tail length with software, but it's easily between 1.3 - 1.5 degrees) The coma was very large and condensed, around more than 15 arc minutes. I could not see the primary ion / gas tail, since it could be too faint and tenuous.

With naked-eyes, the large coma appeared as bright as 5.5 mag star. Easily seen and appeared elongated and fuzzy. Indeed an amazing comet!


11) 25th Feb, 09 - From our observing site Hosahalli, 70km North Bangalore.

I could observe the comet once again. With a 10x50 binocs, the view has always remained same; nearly a degree dust (anti) tail and no trace of faint ion/gas tail, except for a short spike.

From a dark site, with a 8" f/8 telescope and a 32mm Plossl eyepiece(fov 1 degree), it appears as a bright condensed coma with a central nuclues. Coma is very bright, and the nuclues could be 7th mag.

The dust (anti) tail was very bright, tapering and around 1 degree. Its always difficult to estimate the exact length, since the last part is especially diffuse, merging quickly into background.

The view yesterday very much resembled to my first actual comet, C/2002 T7 LINEAR. The description of the first one was (which also goes for this one): "The impression of the elongated tail coming out from the coma was like that of 'loose hair flowing out of a lady's head'" ;)

I would like to estimate it's speed of movement at the next session.


Will be updated accordingly.