Friday, November 09, 2007

Comet is a rare sight for stargazers

We've had dense fog every night and early morning, so I've yet to spot Comet Holmes myself -- but you don't need any kind of magnification -- your peepers will do. There is a wonderful photo of Comet Holmes taken in the Anza-Borrego Desert, but the photo is in the print edition only. If you go to latimes.com and click on "Print Edition" in the left collumn, you'll get a PDF of todays front page containing that photo. If I locate it elsewhere online, I'll post it here, too.

After seven years of hiding Comet Holmes is making quite the impression: on Oct. 24 it became visible to the naked eye and has yet to dim.

“It suddenly increased its brightness by one-thousand fold,” said Britt Scharringhausen, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Beloit College.

The billions-year-old comet was discovered in 1892 by an Englishman named Edwin Holmes and was last seen in 2000. Then it appeared as a dim object seen in the telescope. The sight was not “nearly as spectacular” as it is now, Scharringhausen said.

Beloit resident Carl Balke, a 35-year stargazing enthusiast, first saw Comet Holmes about 10 days ago after he had heard about its appearance from someone else. Since then, he has spent at least three to four minutes a night to spot it.
“It looks like a big, out of focus light bulb,” he said. “The exciting part is this is the leftover debris from the big bang.”
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