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Comet Holmes is Fading Away

Article written: 27 Nov , 2007
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
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For a little while there, Comet 17P/Holmes was the largest object in the Solar System, flaring up by a factor of over a million. Its cloud of gas and dust expanded outward to cover a diameter of 1.4 million km (870,000 miles) – bigger than the Sun. Well, the party’s over. Comet Holmes is fading away again. But will it follow history and flare up again?

This image of Comet Holmes was captured by the MMT observatory on November 4th, 2007 using an instrument called “Megacam”. This is one of the largest CCD cameras on Earth, putting 36 9-megapixel CCD chips together to form a single array with 300 megapixels.

The camera captured images of the comet with three separate exposures in three colours to produce this full colour image.

If you want to see Holmes before it fades into obscurity again, you’re going to need binoculars. Although it’s still a 3rd magnitude object, and should be visible with the unaided eye, it’s so large in the sky that it’s actually quite faint now.

Astronomers are hoping that it’ll repeat history. During its last outburst back in 1892, the comet underwent a second bright flareup five months after the first one. So, if history is any judge, we might just see the comet brighten again, and we’ll all get another chance to see it before it’s gone for good.

Original Source: CfA News Release


21 Responses

  1. marlon says

    Holmes is not a comet. it is planet nibiru and its accompanying satellite. there will be a second eruption for sure while this planetary system is nearing the orbit of jupiter as the ancient sumerians foretold us.

  2. Dawn says

    I saw a comet tonight 12-10-07 around 6:40 pm. I was looking straight in Angier North Carolina. Do you have any idea what it was that I saw?

  3. Roger says

    Hi, I don’t know the constellations except for the dippers. At approx. 1900 EST 10 Dec., ’07 I was looking almost straight up and saw a bright, blurred spot. I went into the house to retrieve binoculars. I could see what appeared to be a comet with the tail pointed eastward. I’m in SE Michigan near Ann Arbor. A few minutes later I told my wife and we looked together to see it but we couldn’t find it. Darn!! I’ve seen comets only twice before and this was the best. I will continue to look.

  4. peggy says

    Just like Roger, we also saw the comet with the tail at about 1900 EST Dec 10 in Venice, FL. Went back out at 2030 EST and saw nothing. Where did it go?

  5. Laura says

    Hi! Were here in maine and also saw the same comet that Roger and Peggy saw! This was approx. 7:30 pm eastern time. I can only imagine we will see it on the new tomorrow morning. It was not Holms. Holms was still there after the comet we saw was gone! AMAZING!!!

  6. Laura says

    I have to say that I would love to name this comet after my 19 month old baby Jordan. This was such an amazing site to see this comet. I’m still in awe that it was so bright in it’s flare up and was gone so quickly! I’m so glad other people saw it too. Happy Holidays everyone, be well. L

  7. Fran says

    My husband and I saw it too. We are in Sarasota, Fl. It was about 6:50pm. We watched it for about 15 minutes. We were looking northwest and it by the time 15 minutes passed we were actually facing northeast. It was then covered by clouds. It was very bright with the binoculars. I would love to know what comet it was.

  8. gina says

    I live in southen virginia and at 8:00pm me and my father also saw the amazing comet with the long tail .I have searched the web and cannot find the name of this. I would also love to know what this is

  9. Mark says

    I’m going to add my voice to this chorus. I’m in the middle of Charlotte, NC and even with all of the light pollution this object was very bright at about 6:50PM. As with the other observers, I saw this almost directly overhead. Anybody have any ideas what we were all seeing?

  10. SHAWN says

    I LIVE IN HILTON HEAD, SC AND 9 YEARS OLD. THAT WAS REALLY COOL TO SEE I’M SO GLAD I GOT TO SEE A COMET.

  11. autumn says

    I live north of Gainesville, Florida, and at around 7 PM my kids and I looked west, and saw an astounding comet. I got one or two views with my ‘scope, but it was soon obscured by trees. I assumed that it was Holmes having another flareup, but from what I hear here it was not. My telescope was focussed on a star, though, and did not need much refocusing to view this object, so it wasn’t an atmosheric phenomenon.

  12. Mark says

    Hi folks,

    I’m by no means convinced that what we all saw was a comet. I’m not suggesting anything X Files here, but it moved way too fast for a comet and way too slow for any number of other things. I’d suggest a launch vehicle of some sort, but it appeared to be heading West which would be a very strange direction to toss something from Langley AFB, Patrick AFB or Canaveral. The mystery continues…

  13. john says

    I saw the object that looked like a comet at @ 6:30 pm to about 7:00 pm. It looked like a comet to me it was very bright and I could see it very clearly with the naked eye. It had a bright body and a beutiful tail. I first noticed it straight up in the sky and watched it faded out toward the north east. At @ 7:00 it just faded out. I’ve looked for it the past two nights so I can show my daughter but have not been able to locate it.

  14. John says

    I have the answer to your comet query.
    I too saw it, in Irish skies.
    The most likely explanation is that it is the exhaust gasses coming from a leftover rocket booster or old satellite as it passed over your area of sky. Unlike a comet, it had no nucleus at the front, but it did have a very pointed head, a very long tail, and it did move very quickly against the background stars.
    There are hundreds of these cast-off rocket booster/satellites up there in our skies left over after they launched a main satellite into space. They can remain up there for years, and every now and then they may skim too close to our atmosphere which heats up the object, therefore releasing frozen fuel or water onboard that turns to a gas. Thus, we see the lovely comet-like display. While the downside may be that we’re not actually seeing a comet, the upside is that it’s a relatively rare event, so I and you may consider ourselves lucky to have seen it.
    John — http://www.moonposter.ie

  15. Jim B says

    It was a fuel dump from a rocket launched to put a spy satellite in orbit.

  16. T.S. Kelso says

    This was indeed most likely the fuel dump done by the Centaur upper stage used to launch NROL-24 from Cape Canaveral on Monday. Those of you who saw it might want to check out the YouTube video to see if it looks like what you saw. Just search for “NROL-24”.

  17. mark says

    LOL @ marlon

    don’t be silly

    the ancient sumerians told us nothing of the sort, i also read “chariots of the gods”, interesting books but pretty far-fetched imo

    its definitely a comet, have a search around for images on google, it’s quite impressive 😉

  18. mark says

    oh , and does anybody know if holmes is still visible to the naked eye now?

    i saw it back in october and november when it could be seen as a blurry disc next to mirfak in perseus, but haven’t seen it lately, wondering if it might be too dim to see without binoculars/telescope now.

  19. Hilda Rivera says

    I also saw the comet on the 10th of Dec, but it wasnt Holmes. I also saw alot of falling stars that night. We sat outside watching and all saw them. But the first one was huge. Believe me it wasnt holmes because Holmes was still where it was before and after that. I live in Kipling NC, and it was a huge. I also would like to know if Holmes is still visible. It has been so cloudy lately we cant see much of nothing.

    Hilda

  20. East coast, Australia says

    My brother and i saw a really huge yellowish fire-coloured and very prominent star to the east from the beach in the sky for a few hours before dawn,(no it wasn’t jupiter) and it remined visible until the sun had almost complely risen. It is the only star i have ever seen to have it’s own moon-like ripple “reflection” in the water, and it left a shimmering haze over the water above where it was for a couple of hours after sunrise, it really unnerved us. So i got busy researching, and after all the research i’ve done and all the stuff i’ve read about planet x and it’s elliptical orbit etc, unprecedented ice sheet melting and the suddenly spiralling greenhouse effect as well as all this other unexplained environmental stuff thats currently going on, although i’m certainly no paranoid conspiracy nut, however now i know i’m not the only one who’s seen totally WRONG phonemena going on in the night sky this crap is beginning to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I have to ask is there something horiffic about to unfold that our government’s not publicly planning to tell us untill the last minute?

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