November 30, 2010

COMET HARTLEY, M47 & M46 OBSERVATION REPORT 30-11-2010


The sky was thankfully clear and the best it can ever get from my city’s site. I could see 3.5th magnitude stars near horizon 5.5 magnitude stars high in the sky. The comet 103P Hartley was close to a rich open cluster M47 and its companion, rather faint open cluster M46. I saw this from my Planetarium Software Starry Night Pro. This was a nice opportunity for astro-photographers. I was ready to observe it visually but had no idea how bright the comet was! The software shows that it shines at 7 magnitude, so I decided to observe it through my 8-inch Newtonian.

I woke up at 2:10am and uncovered my telescope. The sky was really very clear. A Waning Crescent (23 days old) moon had just rose and was behind the hill. Dazzling Sirius was high in the sky (transit time 3:02am). I set the telescope on the pear stand but found that its plastic made poor rack-n-pinion focuser was broken!!! I have fixed this problem many times by sealing it using a tape!! But this was not the time for this operation. From my balcony, the region of the sky was just about to hide behind the building. So I quickly uncovered my 10x50 Olympus Binocular. I pointed it to Sirius and moved eastward unless I reach to some bright open cluster. M47 is some 12.5 degrees East of Sirius. After centering on the cluster I saw both M47 and M46 together in the Filed of View. In the next moment I saw a fuzzy object between the two clusters. The cluster M46 appeared as fuzzy object and the comet Hartley was fainter than M46. It was very close to the 5th magnitude star and was easy to observe using averted vision. Another open cluster NGC 2423 was also visible in the same FOV.

The above image is the drawing generated in computer using paintbrush and photoshop

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