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Naked-Eye Observing - "Naked Eye" Comets

Comets are icy dust balls that orbit the Sun in highly parabolic orbits. It is believed they originate from the Oort cloud, a large spherical shell of residual solar system debris that orbits the Sun at a large distance from the Sun.

There are "periodic" comets that appear in a predictable manner - like Haley's Comet - and sometimes a comet will be discovered by an amateur astronomer. Throughout history, depictions of comets visible with the un-aided eye have been recorded and within the past 10 years there have been two comets that were also visible without aid - Comet Hale-Bopp and Comet Hyakutake.

Comet Hale-Bopp Come Hyakutake

Larger versions of these image are available for viewing in the Image Gallery. These are scans of old 35mm prints - but they are mine.

Of course, a much better image of comet Hale-Bopp (from http://www.mlo.noaa.gov):

Two excellent resources to determine visibility and location of a comet (as well as a host of other events):

  • Heavens-Above - an online ephemeris with a simple interface
  • CalSKY - another online ephemeris with an extensive list of events

You will have to register to get specific data from your location, but the process is benign.

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