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The Sciences

Naked eye comet graces the skies

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitFebruary 24, 2009 12:18 AM

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A fairly bright comet is passing through the neighborhood right now: C/2007 N3 (Lulin), or just Lulin to its friends. I have not yet seen it (busy busy) but I plan to soon: over the next few days it's passing very close to the position of Saturn in the sky, making it a very easy target to spot. Take a look at a map of Lulin's position for tonight courtesy Jodrell Bank. Sky and Telescope also has PDF maps of the comet position for various dates. Its position near Saturn in Leo means it's up practically all night right now; it rises around sunset, so look East for it (check the map links above for details). With binoculars it should be pretty easy to find; its brightness is hovering just above naked-eye visibility, so it'll be an obvious fuzzy ball near Saturn. Just sweep around and I bet you'll find it. And for you astrophotographers, it's a piece of cake. Just take a camera, plop it on a tripod, aim it near Saturn, and take a few-seconds-long exposure. Take as long an exposure as you can (30 seconds is usually about as far as you can push it in reasonably light-polluted skies), but it may show up in shorter shots too. Pictures are turning up everywhere (do a Google image search!), so you should try your hand at it too. I've taken some pretty awesome sky shots with just my wee digital camera. It's really not all that hard. As for me and the new comet, of course this is the first cloudy day we've had in weeks, so I'll just have to wait. Impatiently.

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