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Comet McNaught Graces the Evening Sky - Rapidly:

I need to get out more...

I only learned today that there is a naked eye comet that has been visible in the early evening skies for the past few days. You would think I would pick up on a story like this earlier! Well better late than never.

On August 7, 2006, Australian astronomer Robert McNaught discovered a comet on a CCD image taken from the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Being so close to the Sun, this comet promises a rare and beautiful treat - but comets are unpredictable.

Since its discovery, Comet McNaught - also known as C/2006 P1 - has gradually brightened. Over the past 3 days (since January 9, 2007) is has been visible with the human eye just after sunset. Please see the graphic below (from the Sky and Telescope website):

Comet McNaught

This evening (January 12, 2007), the comet was reported as bright as Venus, only more diffuse. The comet should be visible for us in the Northern Hemisphere for one more day. Maximum brightness is predicted to be from -6 to -8 magnitude.

As it swings around and speeds away from the Sun, the comet will be visible to viewers in the southern hemisphere.

With luck, the skies will be clear tomorrow and I will attempt an image. If successful, I will post the results.

Here is a live view of Comet McNaught from the Large Angle and Spectrometric COronagraph (LASCO), part of the SOHO spacecraft:

LASCO Image

 

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