Flintstone Stargazing

December 10, 2007

I spotted a new comet . . . or not.

Filed under: astronomy, Clouds, comet — Tags: , — Ed @ 8:08 pm

This evening while I was at scouts (I’m a Cub Scout leader), I was outside setting up a scavenger hunt for the kids when at 6:50 I looked up in the night sky and nearly directly overhead was a magnitude 1 comet! The core was exceptionally bright (at least mag 1) and the coma was very large – the whole thing was nearly the size of the moon in appearance. In order to ensure I wasn’t hallucinating, I immediately called David and told him to go outside and look up in the sky. He saw it too – it was brilliant – brighter than Hale-Bopp (the brightest I’ve ever seen). Because I couldn’t just leave the scout meeting (I’m the leader, after all), I had to go inside and couldn’t observe for a while, though I kept looking at it through the meeting. By the time we got outside again, about 15 minutes later, the comet had moved against the background of the stars moving north, not with the clouds that were in the sky and not in the same direction. However, by then, the core wasn’t really visible anymore – just the coma. While the scavenger hunt continued, I kept trying to get a good look though the lights around the church are pretty bright but I talked to David a couple of times and he was seeing the same things. By the time the meeting ended, the clouds had covered where the new comet (let’s call it Comet Ed) was and I headed home, hoping to use my scope to get a picture with my telescope. While on the way home, David informed me that he thinks he discovered what it was in this article which was posted this evening. After talking with him I think it probably was, indeed something of that sort. 

So I guess the world will have to wait a bit longer for Comet Ed – I think it probably was an extremely high altitude cloud that at 6:50 was still catching some of the suns setting rays. I can’t describe how excited I was – I literally had goosebumps. I just wish I’d brought my camera and binoculars. I should keep my binoculars in the truck for just this kind of thing in the future….

Further thoughts: I just plugged in the location and time into my Starry Night software and if it is to be believed the Sun would have been directly visible at 250km above my location and so extremely high clouds should have been able to still catch sunlight refracting through the atmosphere maybe as low as 50km (that’s a guess) or perhaps lower. It’s strange to think that even though it’s very dark here on the ground that if you go high enough, you might still be able to see the Sun.

Comet Ed (simulation) on 12/10/07
Comet Ed 🙂

This is what it looked like to me – I’ve recreated it in Photoshop, using a background from my Starry Night software.

Update: See this new post for what I actually saw.


1 Comment »

  1. yeah “comet ed” freaked me out last night also lol.

    Comment by wrath — December 11, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

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