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Friday, 12 November 2010

New Comet Alert

                 The SOCIETY for POPULAR ASTRONOMY
        Special Electronic News Bulletin    2010 November 9


Newly-discovered comet C/2010 V1 (Ikeya-Murakami) is putting on a good
show for anyone with a telescope and an alarm clock.  The comet is
rapidly changing, and the shape of its atmosphere is similar to that
of Comet Holmes after it had an outburst in 2007.  Indeed, Comet
Ikeya-Murakami seems likely to be experiencing a similar event.  It
has been in the far reaches of the Solar System for a very long time,
but has been falling in towards the Sun, to which it made its closest
approach (1.7 AU) in late October, so it has recently been receiving a
dose of solar heating.  The various automated search programmes that
have taken so much of the fun (or at least success) out of old-
fashioned comet-hunting in recent years, finding comets of the
twentieth magnitude that nobody can see, did not discover this one.
It was two Japanese amateurs, looking through their respective
telescopes, who discovered it, after perihelion and already at about
its present brightness; if it had been of a comparable brightness for
months before, it could be expected to have been discovered sooner,
although it has been approaching from behind the Sun.  Ikeya was the
first to see it; his name is familiar from his discovery 45 years ago
of the Sun-grazing Comet Ikeya-Seki, one of the most spectacular
comets of the 20th century.

Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor developments.  Various
reports put the brightness of the comet between 7th and 9th magnitude,
invisible to the naked eye but easy to see in telescopes and likely to
be visible even binoculars.  It is easy to find, in the eastern sky
before dawn, a degree or so south of Saturn this morning and moving
slowly south-east more or less parallel to the ecliptic, a little
less than one degree a day.
Bulletin compiled by Clive Down

(c) 2010 the Society for Popular Astronomy

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

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