Comet 41P/T-G-K Greens Up For St. Paddy’s Day

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak begins its best showing of the year this week as it slingshots across the Big Dipper into circumpolar skies. Meanwhile, comet ace Terry Lovejoy has just discovered a new morning comet.

Update: The charts for this comet in the May issue of Sky & Telescope are significantly off, due to a change in the ephemeris. Use the finder chart below instead (where the ticks are for 9 p.m. EDT on the date given [i.e. 1h UT on the following date]).
Near and Far Pair

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak pairs up with the beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 3198 on March 14.
Chris Schur

With St. Patrick's Day this week, green naturally comes to mind. I'm usually the one chastised by my co-workers for not wearing green. Just forgetful, that's all. When it comes to comets, we know that when one starts "greening up," it's a sign that it's getting closer and brighter. Only two weeks ago, before departing the evening sky, 8th-magnitude Comet 2P/Encke glowed pale emerald in my telescope. I hated to see it go.

But as often happens, when one astronomical objects departs the scene, another takes its place. This week, periodic comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak begins the best part of its 2017 apparition, dashing across the circumpolar sky and brightening as it goes. Its timing couldn't be better. It's visible almost the entire night from anywhere in the northern hemisphere, so if you play your Moon-cards right, you can see 41P/T-G-K in dark skies part of every night now through about April 8th.

A Real Mover

As the comet passes closest to Earth (0.14 a.u.) from mid-March through early April, it hurries across the circumpolar constellations Ursa Major and Draco. Viewing opportunities are excellent for observers in mid-northern latitudes where the comet's up all night. The map shows stars to magnitude +7.5 with 41P/T-G-K's position marked every 3 days at 9 p.m. EDT. Click image for a full-size, printable chart.
Created with Chris Marriott's SkyMap

That's more than 3 weeks to catch the comet! And if you're like me, living in a region prone to spring clouds, you'll need it. A week ago, the comet shone at magnitude +9.2 and appeared moderately condensed with a 7′ coma. With a magnification of 64× in my 15-inch telescope, the nuclear region was a bright pip (not quite stellar) at center. Photographs taken a few nights ago hint at a southward coma extension which may be the start of a tail.

Climbing Into the Light

We can see the progress of Comet 41P/T-G-K in this series of photos made on (from left) February 4th, February 25th, and March 4th. The comet's St. Patrick's Day green arises from fluorescing carbon molecules.
Hisayoshi Kato

By March 14-15, the coma had swelled to at least 12′ across but appeared less compact and more diffuse through my scope. Apparently I was only seeing the core. Other observers using 10x50 binoculars and modest, wide-field instruments are now reporting coma diameter estimates of at least 30′ (Full Moon size) and a magnitude closer to +8. When you attempt 41P, know that its large coma will appear more obvious in a smaller, wide-field instrument than in a larger instrument with a smaller field of view.

Next week, the comet should brighten by at least half a magnitude and become easy prey in 50-mm and larger binoculars from rural and perhaps even outer suburban areas. More optimistic predictions call for 41P to reach a peak brightness of magnitude +6 during the first week of April. Will sharp-eyed skywatchers spot it with the naked eye in the wee hours before dawn?

Top-o'-the-Earth Flyby

This view shows Comet 41P/T-G-K's position (red dot) on March 15th. Notice that the comet's orbit takes it above Earth's northern hemisphere, the reason we see the comet high in the northern sky in the coming weeks.
TheSkyLive

The comet has its closest encounter with Earth in more than a century when it zooms past at a distance of just 21.2 million km (13.2 million miles) on March 31–April 1. As with the recent close pass of 45P/H-M-P on February 11th, it's likely that 41P will become large and distended. But unlike that comet, which blew by more than a month after perihelion, we'll see 41P at closest approach nearly two weeks before perihelion on April 12th. Instead of fading, the nuclear region should intensify as the comet grows in apparent size. Exciting!

Trippy Trio

Get ready for a dandy gathering of the comet, Owl Nebula, and galaxy M108 on the night of March 21–22. This view shows the trio in a 1° field of view around 11 p.m. CDT that evening.
Created with Stellarium

You can begin searching for the comet just as soon as the sky gets dark. The little blob brushes up alongside Ursa Major's back paw early this week while heading for a close approach (1.5°) with Beta (β) Ursae Majoris (Merak) at the end of the Big Dipper's bowl on the night of March 21–22. That same night, 41P/T-G-K will triangle-align with the Owl Nebula (M97) and the Surfboard Galaxy (M108) in a not-to-miss 3-for-1 special. Use a magnification that provides a 1° or larger field of view to see them all simultaneously.

Astronomers have kept their eyes on Comet 41P/T-G-K for a long time.This comet was first discovered in 1858 by Horace Tuttle of the Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while he was comet sweeping, then re-discovered by Michel Giacobini in 1907. Lubos Kresák picked it up again in April 1951. Echoing the discovery of Halley's Comet as the same object observed over widely-separated apparitions, astronomers computed the orbit for Kresák's rediscovery that May, they realized that the comets of 1858, 1907, and 1951 were one and the same.

Now it's your turn to crack open the history book and see where you fit in. Clear skies!

New Lovejoy Comet!

New Comet On the Move

The three images, taken five minutes apart, show the blur of new Comet C/2017 E4 at the center of each frame. The comet moves noticeably in the short time span and shows a small central condensation and a faint outer coma.
Terry Lovejoy

This just in. Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy discovered a new comet, his sixth, on the morning of March 10th in the constellation Sagittarius. With the temporary designation of C/2017 E4, the 12th-magnitude object is moving at a good clip to the northeast and will soon become visible from mid-northern latitudes. It may reach magnitude +9 by mid-April when it arcs across Pegasus and Andromeda low in the pre-dawn sky. The comet reaches perihelion on April 23th.

Headed North in a Hurry

New Comet C/2017 E4 (Lovejoy) arcs from eastern Sagittarius to Andromeda between now and mid-April. The comet may brighten to magnitude +9. Positions are plotted every 3 days at 5:30 a.m. EDT. Stars are shown to magnitude +6.5.
Created with Chris Mariott's SkyMap

Lovejoy nabbed the new comet in a series of three photos taken with his 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope using Moving Object Detection (MOD), a computer program he wrote that searches sets of images for moving objects like comets and asteroids. I've included a finder map based on the most recent orbital elements. Congratulations, Terry!

59 thoughts on “Comet 41P/T-G-K Greens Up For St. Paddy’s Day

  1. rocksnstarsrocksnstars

    Oh my, what an awesome trio! Some of my favorite views of comets are with deep sky objects. It’s fun to try to imagine the difference in photon age of the objects in the eyepiece, but it can make you dizzy. And a comet with both an object in our galaxy and another galaxy is something I’ve never seen. Luckily the moon is out of the way but my corollary* will now be in full force at 10 PM EDT on the 21st in Maine.

    Please let us know the source of the magnitudes for C/Lovejoy. They are considerably different (~4 mags brighter) than what the Minor Planet Center lists (http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html).

    *Hoffelder’s corollary (to Murphy’s Law), rev 2: The probability of cloud cover at night is a) inversely proportional to the amount of moonlight in the sky, and b) directly proportional to the observer’s level of interest in any celestial event, with the latter taking precedence when applicable.

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Hi rocksnstars,

      The visual magnitude predictions were provided to me by expert comet observer Michael Mattiazzo. You’re right — they’re different from the MPC predictions, but that doesn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. Once the moon’s out of the sky, we’ll start getting more visual data and better predictions. I enjoyed Hoffelder’s corollary — so that’s what that’s called! One small note: the trio of comet, nebula and galaxy is shown for 11 p.m. CDT or midnight Maine time.

      1. rocksnstarsrocksnstars

        Glad you enjoyed my corollary; I’m sure there are many versions but that’s the one I came up with, after moving to New England.

        Seiichi Yoshida’s website is one of my other comet info sources. He too usually has brighter mags than MPC, and he adjusts the curve with time, which I don’t think MPC ever does. He hasn’t listed 2014 E4 yet.

        Thanks for the time correction! After living on the CA coast for 6 years I get the time zone difference in the wrong direction about half the time, never mind knowing which way it is to the ocean and therefore mixing up east and west! North/south has not been affected.

          1. Bob KingBob King Post author

            You could, but Hoffelder fits better in the Heisenberg, Planck, Einstein tradition 😉

          2. rocksnstarsrocksnstars

            Ha! Where’s the “like” button? (That’s to your H – P – E tradition, as I’m not sure this reply is going to follow it.)

            My wife and I did view 41P in our 8 inch f/6 Newtonian on Friday evening. We didn’t have any trouble seeing it but of course the reported magnitudes (7.5 to 9) are a bit of joke. Would be nice if surface brightness numbers were available for comets (as they are for galaxies). Maybe I’ll have to figure out how to calculate SB?

            I see S. Yoshida has just listed 2017E4, with a current mag of 11.

          3. rocksnstarsrocksnstars

            My wife and I were able to see the three! As I said on my FB post: “Against all odds it was clear for this once-in-a-lifetime view. Photons with ages ranging from 75 seconds to 46 million years, striking our retinas, producing an image in our brains, brains knowing what we were seeing, something not completely understood only a hundred years ago. Perhaps that is the ultimate against-all-odds.”

            Using our (hers actually) 8 inch f/6 Newtonian around 10 PM, only a little more than half of 41P – being so large – was visible in the field with the planetary and galaxy, but it was still an amazing once-in-a-lifetime view! I am shocked that my corollary failed for this event, but ecstatic that it did.

            I was planning to compare the surface brightness of 41P to M108, but in the excitement of seeing the three, I completely forgot. 41P was very easy to see, but so was M108, so maybe the SB was similar.

          4. Bob KingBob King Post author

            Rocksnstarrs,

            I love you photon age comparison. Good stuff. When I viewed the three, I would say that M108 compared well to the inner coma of 41P.

          5. rocksnstarsrocksnstars

            Thanks Bob! That was my impression of the brightness, from memory, but we know memory is not very reliable under emotional events.

  2. Aqua4U

    Thanks Bob! When last I posted on one of your S&T blogs I was bragging about seeing my 53rd comet (45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova). Well, I’ll bet that pales in comparison to how many comets you’ve seen? Hmm… meanwhile thanks for the ‘heads up’ and maps for these two comets. You know what I’ll be doing the next clear night! Unfortunately clouds are predicted for tomorrow night with rain thru the middle of next week. Hope that forecast changes or is flat out wrong? The WX has been highly unpredictable in the last couple years..

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Aqua,
      Thanks for writing. When you attempt 41P be aware that it has a very large coma and will appear more obvious in a smaller, wide-field instrument than in a larger instrument with a smaller field of view. I hope it clears soon!

      1. Aqua4U

        I see in one of your comments below that your comet total is now at 320. That is so cool! I feel embarrassed that I even mentioned my total? Then again… I got to see 41P/T-G-K last Tues night making it my 54th visual comet sighting. And yes, my home made equatorial mounted f3.6 12 1/2″ Newtonian is pretty wide field. With a 12.5mm Plossl the comet almost filled 1/4 of that eyepiece! Using a Lumicon OIII 496nm, OIII 501nm, Hydrogen-Beta 486nm filter with a 32mm Plossl really brought out details in the tail and I even saw the forward leaning ion tail with averted vision. All I can say at this point is – I want more!

        1. Bob KingBob King Post author

          Aqua,
          54 comets are nothing to sniff at my friend. Interesting that you used the OIII and H-beta on 41P. I’ve gotten decent results with the Swan Band but have never tried my OIII. Last week, I also noticed a vague, jet-like feature inside the coma. The comet was easy though not particularly bright in 10×50 binoculars last night.

      1. Bob KingBob King Post author

        goodricke1,

        Alan’s seen more than 500 comets — he’s a dedicated and extremely knowledgeable observer. I’ve only seen a measly 320 😉

  3. Tom-Reiland

    I observed Comet T-G-K Thursday night at Wagman Observatory through the 21″. It looked similar to the photos, but without the green color. Bob, you’re right about it being better in a smaller scope. I also saw it in the 5″ Jaegars Refractor on the side of the 21″. I previously observed it in 2006 when it was only 11 mag and last night I placed it 8 mag. Comet magnitude estimates can vary several magnitudes from one observer to another. I’ve noticed differences of 3 to 4 magnitudes. None of the comets this year have excited me. I’m still hoping for another Hale-Bopp, or even a Comet Holmes type fuzzball. I’m not close to your or Alan Hale’s totals, but I usually don’t go after the fainter ones. Comet Johnson was my 178th. I spend more time on Deep Sky objects. I’m 26 objects short of finishing the entire Herschel Catalogue. I hope to do that this year. I never considered that a possibility until a few years when I passed the 2,000 mark and heard that someone had actually claimed to have completed that project. I’ll have to make a trip to a dark sky site to get the ones in the South. I’ll keep you posted if I finish it.

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Wonderful achievement, Tom on the Herschel Catalogue. Sounds like this will be the year you complete it. I’ll never forget finding all the Messiers as a teenager. Since I lived in the Chicago area, I had to wait for the family vacation to northern Wisconsin — and dark skies — to see several of the faintest with my 6-inch telescope at the time.

  4. OwlEyeOwlEye

    I just came in from having my first-ever look at 41P, and it took quite a bit of work to see it! I started with a Televue 55mm Plossl in my 6-inch f/8 reflector, giving a magnification of 22 X and an actual field of 2.26 degrees spread across an apparent field of 50 degrees. I was looking precisely where the comet should be . . . but nothing. I live under Bortle 5 skies here in De Soto, KS, but they are worse in the NE toward KC where the comet is after it gets dark.

    I switched to a University Optics 32mm Mk-80 Konig eyepiece giving 38 x – still nothing. I got to thinking that if I was to see anything at all, I would have to darken the sky backgound considerably, and so ramped up the power to 94 X with one of my favorite eyepieces: a 13mm Nagler There it was (although it required averted vision), a very small diffuse patch, just the brightest part of the inner coma, and only very slightly brighter than the sky background.

    I was also dodging thin cirrus clouds, so the next truly clear night, I plan to head out to one of my dark sky sites and get a better idea of the extent of the outer coma.

    Regards,
    Doug Zubenel

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Hi Doug,

      We appreciate your observations with a smaller telescope to help others know what to anticipate. I attempted the comet with 10×50 binoculars Saturday night (March 18), and it was very faint. A little cirrus didn’t help. Later, through an 18-inch reflector, a friend and I noticed an asymmetric inner coma with the bright axis oriented approximately north-south.

      1. OwlEyeOwlEye

        Hi Bob,

        I also tried with an excellent, 7×50 WW2 Navy binocular (giant prisms!), but the sky was too bright to see anything at all. Where I am going next – possibly tonight – is dark enough to see M33 naked eye near the zenith, and our 6-inch f/5, single-tube Newtonian binocular should give a good view of the fainter, outer coma.

        Expecting the unexpected, we can only hope for an outburst! I am reminded of the two, 10-magnitude outbursts this comet experienced in May and July of 1973, but these were from 14th to 4th magnitude (highly unlikely we will see a jump from 8th mag to negative 2 – but here’s hopin’!!!).

        In any event, 41P’s apparent size and magnitude will hopefully be greatest during the fast-approaching flyby.

        1. Bob KingBob King Post author

          Hi Doug,
          Boy, that would be wonderful to get another outburst like that one. Unfortunately, I was in college and not paying comets much attention back in ’73 so I missed that outburst. Regretting it now! I get most of comet outburst excitement these days from 29P/SW-1.

  5. Graham-Wolf

    Hello Bob

    Alan Hale did his 500 comets many years ago, and is surely nearing 600. I can’t be far behind… well over 350… probably 400 plus, I’ve stupidly never kept a full observing log, my life has never been a numbers game. I just go out there and do it. Alan has had the advantage of a more comet-populated sky than me and also, he has that 40cm reflector out there at Cloudcroft. Keep it up, Alan.

    My first properly observed comet was around Nov 1965 with Ikeya Seki! It was a jaw-dropper”.
    That was one helluva sun-grazer. Terry’s far more recent sun-grazer came close:- visually! I can’t remember seeing Mrkos 1957, but “may have”.

    As for reported Mv vs predicted Mvs of comets:- it’s always controversial. Varying comparison catalogs (i.e. AAVSO-VSP vs Tycho 2 vs Hipparchus) and coma methods (Sidgewich vs Morris vs Brobrovnikov) all throw variables (no pun intended) into the mix. This gets further confused when you have CCD estimates at varying wavelengths vs the MKI eyeball at 550nM.

    OMG! Like comparing apples and oranges, cheese and chalk.

    Just be studious out there, carefully outline your methods in detail, and wait for your peers to challenge, then you politely clarify. If your data is discarded as being unreliable, then ask for a better system to use. Get mentored if need be, but don’t stop trying, let alone in the pursuit of excellence. And do share you hard-won experience with others, so that one day, they will be your equal… perhaps even better.

    Great article on 41p, Bob… and “top ov da mornin’ to ya, Boy-oh” for St Patrick’s Day.
    Lots of Irish descendents in NZ…. I’ve a few myself, but I broke the mould by being a strict tea-totaller.

    41p is too far north for me. 45p is too faint.. well beyond Mv 12, and I’m still waiting for 2p/Encke to arrive into my southern skies at 46 South. Great to hear recently about Terry’s latest effort #6 called C/2017E4. Had a few looks at it, in recent days, whilst trying to shove the Gibbous Moon out of the way. Latest effort was just 2 nights ago, a little after mid-night. I got Mv 10.8 and a strongly condensed DC6 coma at 125x and 48 arcmin FOV. The inner core was 0.9 arcmin and a fainter 3.1 arcmin coma to ~ Mv 12.5 limit. The comet was closely alongside 56 Sag. Now it’s moving towards Alpha Cap on the 28th, I understand.

    Got an e-mail last night downloaded from Spain. Juan Gonzalez using a 20cm SCT at 100x noticed a strong outburst of C/2017E4! His data is:- MAR 20.21 UT, Mv 8.6!, 4.5 arcmin coma, DC3. He was having problems with Yahoo (as apparently, were several others). The latest Mv from Spain is what the comet was predicted to be for the end of April, and is a full 6Mv (100x!!) brighter than the CBAT Ephemeris put out by Gareth Williams.

    To be fair to Gareth, the one predictable thing about comets, is their unpredictability. Comets are notoriously capricious! Predicting Mvs of a new comet is as tough as predicting the Stock market.
    RIP Chuck Berry. What a muso, what songs he cranked out. What a legend.

    Keep up the great work out there, Bob.

    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf.

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks! Alan found his 500th in early Feb. 2012. Not sure what number he’s at now. 600? I saw J.J. Gonzalez’s observation today but am waiting for others to correlate the estimate. If it’s really that bright, that’s fantastic news! Even at 10.8, that’s brighter than expected, so it may indeed be in outburst. Waiting with anticipation for it to arrive in northern skies. Tonight I’m going to try to see 41P in 10×50 binoculars.

  6. StarChaser55StarChaser55

    Clear skies tonight here in the Davis Mountains about 4 miles from the McDonald Observatory. At 9:35 pm CDT with 10×35 binoculars I was just able to see 41P as a rather large, very faint fuzzy spot about 20-30′ in size, located about a degree west of HIP 53890 – pretty close to where your finder chart said it would be. The low surface brightness made this a difficult subject for my Canon 80D and a standard 55mm lens; even a 20 second exposure at 3200 ISO (f5.6) barely reveals the comet, and I did not even see a central condensation, star-like or otherwise. Will try again around April 1st.

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Thanks for sharing your observation, StarChaser. I had good skies last night as well and easily saw the comet in 10×50 binoculars at first pointing. Your description is similar to what I saw: 30′ coma, very diffuse with DC=2 and magnitude 8.2.

  7. George Gliba

    Bob,

    I saw 41P T-G-K in my 12×63 Optolyth binoculars. It was a nice easy to see 7th magn. fuzzball
    a couple degrees from the 2nd magnitude bowl star beta UMa. It was about 15 arc minutes in
    diameter. A nice object seen from my lounge chair on our deck on Mathias, West Virginia.

    Starry Skies,
    GWG

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Thanks George — I like the idea of watching the comet from a lounge chair. It’s up so high, a reclining chair makes the viewing so much more comfortable. Like you, I saw the comet again tonight in binoculars. What was really cool was seeing it, M108 and the Owl Nebula — three nebulas each appearing similar but composed of radically different “stuff” — only a little more than a degree apart. I could ALMOST fit them in the low power view in my 15-inch.

  8. George Gliba

    Bob

    It was a bit hazy earlier, but now that the transparency had improved I would
    call the coma of 41P/ T-G-K about 20′ in diameter and slightly elongated.

    Starry Skies,
    GWG

  9. Graham-Wolf

    Hello Bob,

    Thanks for the update and clarification on Alan Hale’s comet numbers.
    Least we forget, he also co-discovered Hale-Bopp 1995O1.
    An interesting note about THAT.
    Alan and I were both independently (within hrs of each other).. looking at an NGC object, and the H-B comet was NOT visible. 3 weeks later looking at that same NGC object, and there it was this time…. 3 or 4 days after Alan spotted it. It must have come up at least 3 or 4 Mv in that short time.

    Followed it right through to a ~ low Mv 16 “outburst” with eventually an Obsession-20 on loan and 7.0 to 7.2 skies atop the Summit of Mt Climie! I managed “only” 823 measures of p/1 Halley but well over 2,600 of Hale-Bopp to 1999!!

    Juan Jose Gonzalez’s visual observation of 2017E4 Lovejoy submitted a few days ago, has just found it’s way onto Luis Mansilla’s LIADA webpage, moments ago. Also a few hours ago, both Seiichi Yoshida and the BAA Comet Section finally updated their comet webpages. No other reports of 2017E4 Lovejoy sightings. I’m hoping we will get one soon from Chris Wyatt at Walcha, NSW. Maybe, he’s been “socked out” by bad weather so far.

    Hoping to get the weather-monkey off my back down here at 46 South (3 days clouded out) and get another look at Lovejoy and a first (this apparition) of 2p/Encke.. the latter is currently ~ 25 deg solar elongation.

    We’ll see.

    Meanwhile enjoy those northern comets up there. 41p seems to be really putting on a great show for you “Northerners”!
    An apology Bob.
    A 2 day headache resulted in my mis-reading your recent Lovejoy Chart. Of course it passes close to Alpha Cap (a double star) on the 23rd, NOT the 28th!

    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf.

  10. Graham-Wolf

    I think, Bob, Alan Hale and I were both independently looking at M70… in Sgr???

    Quite a number of comets out there have been discovered purely by accident.
    You look at an NGC fuzz-ball…. and HELLO… there’s a second one close nearby.
    Yikes!!

    I soberingly remember the late great George Alcock (UK) discovering a comet (one of several) with a pair of binoculars. But, Bob, wait for this….. he was actually looking through his living room window to the outside, when he did it!

    Enough to make you reach for your heart pills……

    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf.

  11. Tom-Reiland

    Once again, I thank you for providing the information about the grouping of M97, M108 and Comet T-G-K. I was able to see all three in the 5″ f/5 Jaeger’s Refractor that is piggy-backed onto the 21″ Manka Reflector at Wagman Obs at 28.6X with a field of view at 2.86 degrees. All three fit in easily as I viewed them from 10:55 to 11:05 PM EDLT (Eastern Daylight Later Time – there is no savings). I wasn’t able to see all of them in the 21″ simultaneously. M97 and M108 did fit in the same field at 75X. Once again, I could not see any distinct greenish tint to it. I could barely see it in my 10 X 50 binoculars. I estimated it between 7.5 and 8 mag. I did pick up 2 more Herschel galaxies and confirmed an observation of NGC 4395/4401 that I made last month before clods rolled in.

  12. OwlEyeOwlEye

    Hi Bob,

    I took a big gamble last night – thickening cirrus clouds moving in from WNW – and drove nearly two hours to a site NW of where I live, and when I arrived at the end of nautical twilight, things looked pretty bleak. I set up the 24 X 150 binocular, and was actually able to barely make out 41P, M97 and M108 through the cirrus clouds – Merak had a bright aureole surrounding it! Great Horned Owls were talking to one another and a soporific, gusty breeze occasionally hissed through a few tall evergreens reaching toward Sirius nearby.

    After about fifteen minutes, I noticed that the aureole around Merak was gone, and had an intent look. In the 3.4 degree field of the binocular, the trio was widely framed, and by looking at the midpoint between the three, could easily see them all simultaneously – a very pleasant sight!

    The nearly round coma looked ~ 20 arcmin in diameter, with the inner condensation slightly off-center.

    Regards,
    Doug Z

      1. OwlEyeOwlEye

        Bob,

        It does get the job done, and its unique mounting makes it very user-friendly (I’ll send you a few pictures).

        After completion, I took it to my first – and so far last – Stellafane in 2006, and a man came out of the darkness one evening and asked if he could have a look at the Andromeda galaxy. He was at the eyepieces for a while, and before he walked off into the darkness he said to me, “That was the best view of the Andromeda galaxy I’ve ever had.”

        Send ’em away happy!

  13. Graham-Wolf

    Hi Bob.

    Got a quick look at both C/2017E4 (Lovejoy) and 2p/Encke a little before dawn onset this morning!
    A thin crescent moon low and out to the right-hand-side, provided less lunar pollution than expected, in the comet FOV…… Lovejoy was passing through Alpha Cap, and Encke was quickly located some 5 deg to the right of the Helix Nebula (I’m in the antipodes, so I have to invert your most helpful charts, Bob)..

    Mattiazzo:- using a Canon 60D on March 22nd, took a 3 min exp with a Sigma 200 lens giving a claimed 4 deg FOV. Comet Lovejoy produced a very slightly oval and diffuse green coma on the website image, that I’ve been looking at, just hrs ago. He claims an R Mag of 10.1. Artyom Novichonok also posted a pic of Comet Lovejoy taken March 18.50 UT, claiming M1 12.0, 1.5 arcmin coma and a DC~3.

    FYI, Bob.

    Keep up the great work out there!
    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf.

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Graham,

      Thank you! And thanks for keeping track of these wily comets from the antipodes. So what visual mag. are you now getting for E4 Lovejoy?

  14. SNH

    Hello Bob,
    First, thanks for noting that some of the official Sky & Telescope maps for comet 41P T-G-K were off. I had noticed that myself after printing off the March map for it from cometchasing.skyhound.com. I’ve always assumed that it can happen more often for the comets that get closer to Earth because any small changes normally don’t show up in there plotted paths when they’re so far away.
    Here is my BIG NEWS: Last night (March 23/24) I was able to see the comet (~20′ coma) naked eye and estimated its brightness at about +6.7 from my home (which is a dark sky sight on its own).
    Oh, and thanks for the heads up on a new Lovejoy comet…I’ve seen a couple of those in recent years and they tend to be good ones.

    Thanks, Scott

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Woo-hoo, SNH! Yours is the first naked eye observation of 41P/T-G-K I am aware of. We’ve been cloudy again for the past few days, but I’ll be working my own naked eyes at the next opportunity.

  15. halfastrohalfastro

    I have only visually observed 41P with binoculars. My first attempt was on Friday, Mach 17th and I saw it with 8×42 binoculars. Have seen it a few times since then as well. Taken some photos with my Canon 6D and EF 75-300mm lens on a iOptron Skytracker. Convenient setup for that (although I would like to find a better lens…it does the trick but I want to get a better mount so I can use my Tamron 150-600 which is a lot sharper, especially at 300mm). Easily got it with M108 and the Owl Nebula using this setup.

  16. Graham-Wolf

    Hi Bob

    Very busy these last few days!
    Here’s that personal comet data you have waited for….

    C/2017E4 (LOVEJOY)
    March 22.696 UT, Mv 9.0, 4.8 arcmin coma, DC3
    24.695 UT, Mv 9.2, 5.8 arcmin coma, DC4
    25.688 UT, Mv 8.9, 4.0 arcmin coma, DC4
    All with 12cm f4 Meade GOTO and 50x (96 arcmin FOV).
    AAVSO-VSP comparisons…. 15df MLim 10, centred on Alpha Cap

    2p/ENCKE
    Mar 22.698 UT, Mv 7.6, 5 arcmin coma, DC6, 10x50B
    23.698 UT, Mv 7.8, 4.2 arcmin coma, DC6, 12cm f4 L, 50x
    25.696 UT, Mv 8.0, 2.4 arcmin coma, DC7, 12cm f4 L, 50x
    AAVSO-VSP Comparisons:- 15df MLIm 10, centred on Alpha Cap.

    C/2015ER61 PANSTARRS
    Mar 19.646 UT, Mv 9.4, 4.6 arcmin coma, DC4
    24.646 UT, Mv 9.0, 5.4 arcmin coma, DC4
    25.680 UT, Mv 8.6, 5.6 arcmin coma, DC4
    AAVSO-VSP Comparisons:- 5df Mlim 12, centred on Antares.
    All obs with 12cm f4 GOTO and 50x (96 arcmin FOV).

    73p/ SW3 (Fragment BT)
    Mar 19.621 UT, Mv 11.5, 1.0 arcmin coma, DC3
    24.621 UT, Mv 11.3, 1.2 arcmin coma, DC3
    25.677 UT, Mv 11.0, 1.0 arcmin coma, DC3
    AAVSO-VSP Comparisons:- 3df MLim 13, centred on both Antares and Theta Cap.
    All obs with 12cm f4 GOTO and 100x (48 arcmin FOV).

    Have obtained recent data from both Matt Mattiazzo (Swan Hills, Victoria, Australia) and Andrew Pearce (West Australia:- near Perth) for the last 3 or so days. You’ll have no trouble locatring it on “Yahoogroups/CometObs”.

    HUGE AURORA AUSTRALIS AND OVERFLIGHT LAST THURSDAY EVENING!!
    Bob.. there was a huge Auroral all-night event last Thursday, down here in the Antipodes, and I’m proudly giving you the heads-up on this!

    Flight NZ1980 (piloted by Capt Simon Pearson) took off from Dunedin International Airport (46 South!) at 9pm local time and landed back, 8 hrs later at 5am Friday morning local time. It was a Boeing 767 loaded up with 150 enthusiasts who paid $4K Kiwi for the priviledge to be the first in the Southern Hemisphere to do so, The plane actually flew a convoluted zig-zag pattern some 3/4 of the way to the Antarctic coastline, even crossing the 180 deg longtitude several times. Many time-lapse vids and stills were taken and shown world-wide on the news media.

    BUT… Bob…. I also saw the event from my location at ground level, just a few scant km from Dunedin airport!. Huge curtains, pillars etc to IBC2 and IBC3.
    Felt like I was at Tromso, Norway, Bob.
    Kept going outside and looking to the South and SW, and it just would NOT go away.
    Had a look at ~ 10pm, 11:45pm, 1:30am, 2:20am, 3:40am… I probably had the best ground-level “box seat” going, Bob, and I even saved 4 thousand bucks!
    YIPPEEEEEE!

    Keep up the great work, Bob, and best wishes to your readers out there!
    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Thanks Graham for that awesome aurora report. All quiet here in Duluth, Minn. under clouds. Amazing how quickly Lovejoy’s brightening. It’s in my sky and on my agenda for the very next clear morning.

  17. Graham-Wolf

    Hi Bob!

    Hope you were successful with your first attempt at C/2017E4 Lovejoy, last night.

    After mid-night (apologies to Eric Clapton!!) my skies cleared beautifully:- right through to dawn onset at 06:48 am NZDT. Good views of Lovejoy and Encke a little after 6:30am local time at 46 South. Both had already transisted past the North Meridian and were at almost max horizon altitude. The former has suddenly faded, the latter has brightened a little, since my last e-report.

    C/2017E4 LOVEJOY
    March 27.740 UT, Mv 9.8, 1.5 arcmin coma, DC3

    2p/ENCKE
    March 27. 736 UT, Mv 7.8, 2.0 arcmin coma, DC6

    Both obs with 12cm f4 Meade GOTO and 50x (96 arcmin FOV).
    AAVSO-VSP Comparisons. 15df MLim 10 centred on Alpha Cap.

    Pleased to report, Bob, that “Buster” the yellow eyed penguin (found only on the Otago coast-line, and world’s rarest of breed ~ 400), has now made a full recovery from a graphic shark attack that ripped open his abdomen, last month. Quick antibiotics plus world-class surgery by Dr Lisa Argilla (who also saved the life of Happy Feet), saw “Buster” released to the wild, locally, yesterday. It was Lisa who named him 2 years ago. “Buster” lives only about 30km North-East of my location, at Papanui Beach. We New Zealanders are thrilled to bits at his progress, and we wish him well. He’s already fathered a few penguin chicks, and is hugely popular in his colony. The Maori name for the yellow-eyed penguin is HOIHO.. (pronounce HOY-HOE). They are a fully protected species (of course). I’m sure the late Marlin Perkins would be hugely proud! Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf.

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Hi Graham,

      We had some cirrus this morning plus I was up late with the northern lights, so I had to put off my first Lovejoy attempt. Happy to hear Buster thrives!

  18. Graham-Wolf

    Hi again, Bob!
    Condolences at your lousy weather:- spoiling your attempts at 2017E4 Lovejoy.
    Down here in the antipodes at 46 South, we also had an Auroral event, but not as wild as the all-nighter last Thursday. The Aurora usually hits both geomagnetic poles at once…. at least you got to see THAT.

    Perfectly clear skies down here, all night through to dawn…. couldn’t ask for more.

    Good news, Bob.
    C/2017E4 Lovejoy has done a strong 2 Mv outburst in the last 24 hrs and I’ve even seen it this morning with 10×50 Binocs. Yep… could hardly believe it either, As of a few hours ago, it’s now polling brighter than 8th mag!! On “Yahoogroups/CometObs” you’ll find a post from (reliable) Juan Jose Gonzalez at Spain. MAR 28.11 UT, Mv 7.9, 5 arcmin, DC6 (10x50B). I think Jose has caught the start of the outburst, and me:- a few hours later (probably) the peak…. we’ll see.

    C/2017E4 LOVEJOY
    MAR 27.740 UT, Mv 9.8, 1.5 arcmin, DC3
    MAR 28.740 UT, Mv 7.8, 5.2 arcmin, DC6
    MAR 28.744 UT, Mv 7.6, 6 arcmin, DC7

    The first 2 obs done with the 12cm f4 Meade GOTO at 50x (96 arcmin FOV).
    The latter with 10×50 B (5 df FOV).

    Also, C/2015ER61 PANSTARRS
    MAR 27.732 UT, Mv 8.6, 5.2 arcmin, DC3
    MAR 28.732 UT, Mv 8.8, 4.6 arcxmin, DC3

    Wishing you all the best for a first sighting of Comet Lovejoy, Bob.

    Also noticed on my smart-phone late last night, an auto-post from yourself:- attributed to Universe.com. I particularly appreciated the March 26 pic of Terry’s comet (by Terry himself) that you cut- and-pasted into your artricle, Bob. It was a close-up of the views I ‘ve been getting just this week, Couldn’t see the faint jet though…. maybe, it was a precursor to this morning’s big outburst, methinks,.

    Bob, you’re doing awesome work out there, internationally poularising the night skies. Well done. Keep it up!

    No news yet, from Chris Wyatt at Walcha. The category 5 cyclone that hit Queensland yesterday, is not far from his place (Queensland border), and also not that far from Terry Lovejoy at Brisbane. Now down to a Categorey 1, and the winds a lot slower than the 260 kph peaks reported early last night.

    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Graham,

      Lovejoy at 8? That comet may outdo any other this year in brightness if it keeps going at this rate. Even more eager to see it now. Thanks for your kind words and for keeping us in touch with southern comets!

  19. Graham-Wolf

    Hi Bob.

    It looks as if Chris Wyatt (Walcha, NSW/Queensland border) is OK!!

    He’s just posted a heap of visual comet data to Luis Mansilla’s LIAD website, and I’ve just seen it moments ago (after monitoring it all day). Nothing for last night though…

    This includes C/2017E4 LOVEJOY March 27.73 UT Mv 9.1, 2.4 arcmin, DC6 (25cm f5 GSO Dob).

    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Hi Graham,

      I finally saw Lovejoy this morning and was very impressed. Thanks for your observations which prompted my own. I thought the comet appeared considerably brighter than mag. +9. My estimate was 8 or a bit better. Very clear in the finderscope with no effort and easier to see in 10×50 binoculars even at low altitude than the more distended 41P. A wonderful object — I’ll be writing something up on it for tomorrow. Good to hear about Chris — thanks for the news.

  20. SNH

    Hey OwlEyes,
    My dark-sky sight in northcentral arkansas where I can see stars down to magnitude +7.0 at the zenith on the best of nights.
    Thanks for asking!

  21. George Gliba

    Bob,

    We were luck to have good transparency and seeing to observe comet 41P/ T-G-K from Mathias, West
    Virginia on South-branch Mountain this evening. I could just glimpse the comet with the naked eye
    and estimated it to be 6.2 magnitude using the 5.7 and 6.4 comparison stars on the AAVSO (ab) chart
    for VW UMa. The coma was still around 20′ in diameter. My naked-eye LM was about 6.6. This was the 29th comet that I have seen with the naked-eye in 52 years.

    Starry Skies,
    GWG

    1. Bob KingBob King Post author

      Hi George,

      Still amazed you can spot it with the naked eye. Congratulations on your sighting! Now, get ready to see another potentially naked eye comet — C/2017 E4 Lovejoy. I’ll have details on it on the website later this morning.

  22. Graham-Wolf

    Hi Bob

    It’s defintely brighter alright!

    2017E4’s now down to Mv 7.0 this morning NZDT!!
    That was with 10×50 Binocs ~ 4:30am NZDT.
    That’s one heck of a comet, Bob.
    Good onya Terry! Keep ’em coming, Aussie!
    Can’t wait for #7!!

    Great to hear, Bob, that you’ve finally seen it, at last.
    Comet Lovejoy is saving something special for you Northerners at it races towards Enif in Pegasus.
    Also, congrats to George on his 29th naked eye comet.
    Quite an achievement!

    Regards from 46 South, NZ. Graham W. Wolf

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