Friday, February 06, 2009

February 6: No green comets for me!

Switched on my alarms for 3:00, my usual work wake-up time, even though today is technically the first day of my four scheduled days off. I wanted to see if I could get a glimpse of Comet Lulin near Zubenelgenubi, a star that would have once been part of the claws of Scorpius if they had not been cruelly ripped off and repurposed as Libra's scales millenia ago.

Based on previous attempts to image this area, I'm not at all sure I'll have any luck with this comet, which is currently at magnitude 6.5 or so. But, hey, you can't win if you don't play, right?

Anyway. Got up, geared up, wrapping myself in layers and carefully shielding my eyes from exposure to bright lights. Attached camera to tripod, opened front door, stepped out onto porch, and...

Clouded out. 100% cloud cover, or so close to 100% that it doesn't make any difference.

Ah well, we'll keep trying!

Here are some dates when Comet Lulin is especially easy to find, reposted from here. And for you West-coasters, there's still an opportunity for you to catch this morning's apparition!

Feb. 6th: Comet Lulin glides by Zubenelgenubi, a double star at the fulcrum of Libra's scales. Zubenelgenubi is not only fun to say (zuBEN-el-JA-newbee), but also a handy guide. You can see Zubenelgenubi with your unaided eye (it is about as bright as stars in the Big Dipper); binoculars pointed at the binary star reveal Comet Lulin in beautiful proximity. [sky map]

Feb. 16th: Comet Lulin passes Spica in the constellation Virgo. Spica is a star of first magnitude and a guidepost even city astronomers cannot miss. A finderscope pointed at Spica will capture Comet Lulin in the field of view, centering the optics within a nudge of both objects. [sky map]

Feb. 24th: Closest approach! On this special morning, Lulin will lie just a few degrees from Saturn in the constellation Leo. Saturn is obvious to the unaided eye, and Lulin could be as well. If this doesn't draw you out of bed, nothing will. [
sky map]


NiteSkyGirl said...

I've done this so many times! Went out , looked up said sun of aaaa! , then came in wide awake .
they need to invent a clock that says ' don't bother it's cloudy ' then you can just plop back onto the pillow after you go to get up when the alarm rings.

D.B. Echo said...

Heh. I know all the components exist - there are meters that measure skyy bightness, and I believe I just saw one that actually monitors cloud cover. It probably wouldn't be too hard to connect one to an alarm clock. Maybe it could be made to display the message "NO VISIBILITY, GO BACK TO SLEEP" just so you don't think you slept through the alarm!