Monday, February 23, 2009

Comet Lulin

"Ok, I'm up", Renita replied as I gently woke her and told her it was time to hunt for Comet Lulin. "What, it's only 3:30?" she asked. "I thought it was best before dawn?" I knew better than to answer her.
So begin our quest to find our second comet since retirement. Shortly after we begin full timing, we had traveled to St Andrews State Park in Florida. While there we were treated to an obvious naked eye comet, Comet Holmes,(mentioned in an early Florida blog).
We trudged down to the waters edge. The night was clear as it gets here, but pretty bright, the seeing was about fourth magnitude,(Astronomers rate how bright a star is by its magnitude, the bigger the number the dimmer the star). Unfortunately the comet was about 5.6 magnitude so we needed binoculars to hope to spot it.
Looking toward Saturn, and slightly east and southeast, a faint smudge was visible. Was this Comet Lulin, the Green Comet, or the Sword Comet as one had called it,(due to its unusal antitail it kind of looks like a sword to some). Renita asked if I was seeing the wires. I gently reminded her to put on her glasses and tried to point out Saturn.
After walking back to the house for my green laser pointer, and a quick look at the finder chart, I pointed out Saturn to her and held the laser steady so we could follow the beam with our binoculars. I then moved the beam slowly to the comet.
"It's not green? Why did the papers call it the green comet?" Renita said.
"Its because it has a greenish tinge when using a telescope and taking a long exposed image." I replied. "Or because the newspapers writers are idiots."
"Ok, lets go back to bed", she said.
So we got to spot Comet Lulin, and that was pretty neat, as comets aren't the easiest thing to see. We got back home and Molly wagged her tail hoping we would take her for a walk, not happening. Our second post retirement comet. Clear skies.

ps I tried to take an image of the Comet with our not so cheap camera, and as I suspected I couldn't even get the stars. I then thought of taking a picture of Renita in her comet hunting garb. Getting snarled at, and not in a friendly way, by a beautiful woman at 4 am is not good. I finally settled on a picture of the binoculars and the trusty green laser.

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