Comet observation and attempts - 21st January '08.

By amar_universe; Published 22 Jan 2009

Here are some comet observations and attempts I made on 21st's observing session, with Shashank and Sriram. I could see 3 comets out of 6, one new.

Skies - good with some uniform background light illumination.
Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude - mag 6.45 (?) with averted vision
Star used - HR 3878 (HD 84567) in Antlia
Telescope - 8" f/8.
Eyepiece - 32 mm plossl (mag 50x)
Location - Hosahalli, 70 km North of B'lore.

1) In the evening, we started with a brand new 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko (on Pisces-Aquarius border) which I came to know is 11th mag, above Venus. We got a chance to first observe Uranus which is less than 2 degrees from Venus! There was interference of lights in the West, credit to Zodiacal light, illumination from Venus and misc lights. After finding 20 Psc and 24 Psc stars, I star hopped from the location. The finder chart was not detailed, but we spent some time looking at the redissh region, however unsuccessfully.

2) Next was 144/P Kushida in Taurus which was barely discernable with a 10x50 binocs. I aimed my 20x80 Celestron on tripod at the region, and it was distinctly there as a faint circular fuzz ball. (It resembled Owl Nebula which we saw much later with same equip). The 8" f/8 scope showed an ~6-8 arcminute fuzz between a triangle of stars.

3) Surprisingly unsuccessful on the list was C/2006 OF2 Broughton. We were staring at the right field near Delta Cepheus, and this 10th mag visitor should have revealed itself, in the dark star-studded region. However there was a chain of stars near it, and it must have gotten lost in the glow of these stars.

4) 29/P Schwassmann- Wachmann one the first comets I have been hearing since my earlier days in observing. This one's special because it undergoes regular 'hiccups' (outbursts) like a couple months ago bringing it to 10th mag. And 'always' circumstances have prevented me from observing it. 5 years later I cannot believe this one would be my 25th comet!

We star hopped with naked-eyes from Pollux, to Phi Gemini, to Omega 1 and 2 Gemini. With the 8" less than 2 degrees away I actually spotted a faint 2-star asterism of 11.55 and 12.12 mag stars, which caught my eye to be the comet. Well, this 'distraction' infact revealed another patch with averted vision to be the comet! It was very diffuse with non distinct boundary. Alternating our vision only revealed it, we spent half an hour on observing this, but nothing much.

5) 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.

6) This next comet as far as I knew, earlier had been officially observed by only two observers; Alan Hale (US) and Juan Gonzalez (Spain). I had actually tried 210P/2008 X4 Christensen earlier too, but a bright Moon was interfering this time. After finding 18 and 16 Scorpius stars (right on the border) from Epsilon and Delta Ophiuchus, we gave up everything trying to stare above the 'badly' lit Eastern horizon! Nothing could reveal anything, except for some pixelations and illusions in the eye.

I casually attempted magnitude estimation, but since 2 of the observed comets were very diffuse rather than condensed, it did not work, and I will try once again at the upcoming Coorg star party.

Apart from this, after a long time, we delved into some faint looking galaxies in the Southern constellations regions around Hydra, Pyxis and Antlia. Amazing session!