Comet Soars over Welsh Skies

A spectacular astronomical event has taken place involving the periodic comet Holmes Now an easy naked eye object in the constellation of Perseus its usual brightness is about magnitude 17, millions of times fainter than the faintest naked eye star. However on October 24 it was discovered by the Spanish amateur, Juan Antonio Henríquez Santana, to have undergone a tremendous outburst and rapidly reached naked eye brightness. It was a similar outburst in 1892 that led to its discovery.

Comet Holmes is now a bright starlike fuzz in the north east after dark. Lying below the W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia close to the bright star Alpha Persei the comet looks distinctly green in colour to the naked eye and a careful scrutiny of it from a dark site will reveal the bright outer coma or head and an inner shell of brighter light. Binoculars or small telescopes will reveal much detail.
The accompanying photograph was taken by University of Glamorgan astronomer Martin Griffiths using an 80mm refractor and a Canon EOS 350D digital camera. The exposure was 20 seconds at f5.

âEURoeThis is a fantastic event for the public and astronomers alike. A bright comet always draws attention and Comet Holmes is currently brighter than the commonly remembered Comet Hale-Bopp was in 1997. This is a unique opportunity to engage in one of the most exciting fields of science and see something worthwhileâEUR stated Martin Griffiths.

Currently the comet is just beyond the orbit of Mars and is 245 million km away. Given that distance, the visible body of the comet is almost twice the size of the planet Jupiter! However, the nucleus responsible for all this activity is a mere few kilometers across and the material visible to the naked eye is extremely vacuous, containing the odd grain of dust and plenty of gas.

The University of Glamorgan runs open evenings every first Monday of each month where telescopes will be available to see the Comet. For further details, please contact Martin Griffiths on 01443 483329 or email mgriffi8@glam.ac.uk



One comment


    Rob (penrhys)

    November 13, 2007

    Hi Martin…tried emailing you at mgriffi8@ac.uk from my hotmail account but kept getting delivery failure.

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