Tuesday, November 13, 2007
In which I finally get to see Comet Holmes
Joy! Happiness! The northern horizon was free from cloud for once. But not sky glow, following the stars of Perseus down showed that the comet was located just above the glow of the harbour. Not the worst glow, over the big cranes, but still non-negligible.
The comet was not visible to the unaided eye, but then, Holmes turned out to be only two fingerwidths above the horizon, and even alpha Persii, Mirfak, was difficult to see at magnitude 1.8.
But through binoculars, the comet was perfectly visible. It looked like 47 Tucana, a perfect misty sphere. I was entranced. Even though I had the good fortune to see comet McNaught, with its spectacular tail, this little blob, possibly the most unusual comet recently, held my attention. This disk of light exploded from obscurity and is still bright weeks later. Why? A mystery not yet solved.
And so my cold came back big time, probably due to standing out in the windy cold watching the comet. Why do we amateur astronomers do this too ourselves? Are we insane? Most people would say yes, but then these are the people who will get up at 3:00 am to watch peope kick a ball around on a small screen. This is a puzzle, as the eminent entomologyist Mike Majerus remarked, kids will spend hours collecting and memorizing endless lists of Pokemon, and that's normal, kids who memorize moths and butterflies (or dinosaurs), are seen as weird. Why is this? Everyone is beholden to some passion, but those of us who have a passion for the natural world are seen as strange.
That is an issue for another post some day, but now, pleased that I can share my experience of comet Holmes, I must take my drugs and go back to bed.
Damo, great you could see it. Yes, walking backwards in the garden is not recommended.
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