This lovely image of Comet Garradd (C/2009 PI) as it passes by the globular cluster M92 in the constellation Hercules, was taken remotely from the Tzek Maun Observatory in New Mexico by our friends Giovanni Sostero, Ernest Guido and Nick Howes. While the two objects look like they are right next to each other, M92 is over 25,000 light-years away while Comet Garradd is 12.5 light-minutes away from Earth! The comet looks almost like a bird or winged starship in flight with the dust tail and ion tail shooting off on either side. Comet Garradd is still on show in the northern hemisphere, although you’ll at least need binoculars to see it. The comet is around magnitude 7 now, and is heading north, so over the course of the next few weeks, it should become a little easier to see. For now, you need to get up early to see it, (around 5:30 to 6:30 am), but by the end of the month it should be visible all night long.
We asked for ’em and you sent ’em in. Here are your photos of Comet Garradd, the best-looking comet in the sky right now, as it is brightening and moving faster as it gets closer to us and the Sun. This comet will reach perihelion on December 23, 2011. We start with Brian McGaffney who captured this photo of the Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd when it crossed star cluster M71. The image was taken from the Nutwood Observatory in Bancroft, Ontario on August 26th, 2011 at 11PM. Brian took the photo using an Apoggee U16M and a 14 inch astrograph and an ME mount.
But wait — there’s more!
Richard Richins sends us this image from his location in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Check out his website, Enchanted Skies.
This image was taken on August 27, 2011 in Victoria, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico by Efrain Morales Rivera from the Jaicoa Observatory. “Comet Garradd’s tail is brushing along the core of cluster M71,” Effrain noted, adding the equipment he used was LX200ACF 12 inch. OTA, F6.3, CGE mount, ST2000xm Ccd, AO8, CFW9, Astronomik LRGB filterset.
Leonard Ellul Mercer sent in this nice view from Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.
Suraky on Flickr from British Columbia, Canada shares his first astrophotos shot from his new and improved darker backyard. This is a set of 78 – 30 second exposures taken between 1:16am and 2:40am GMT-7 on August 4, showing the motion of the comet across the sky during that time. Comet is magnitude 8.7, and 1.5AU from Earth. Two satellite traces also shown. Suraky used DeepSky Stacker, set to Maximum, “so it’s very noisy but it shows more of the comet tail.” There is also an inverted view available on Flickr. Equipment: Newtonian 190mm F5.3. LXD75 Mount. Canon T1i DSLR, ISO800
Flickr user 37Hz put together this collection of images from Saturday, August 20, 2011, taken from “Light polluted Zeist,” the Netherlands. 37Hz said, “Wouldn’t have found this comet without the “precise GOTO” function of my NexStar and the exact coordinates of the comet according to Carinasoft Voyager software.” Equipment: Celestron NexStar 5SE. Meade DSI II pro ccd camera, with about 10 seconds for each frame.
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For the observing weekend warriors, the last few days have been a very exciting time. Not only have we been treated to a supernova event in Messier 101, but we’ve had the opportunity to watch Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd silently slip by Messier 71! Wish you were there? Step inside and you can be…
A few days ago we brought you a “live” broadcast of the comet thanks to Bareket Observatory. Thousands of UT readers had the opportunity to view and enjoy for a full six hours and – thankfully – the weather cooperated. Want to see the results? You can check out the comet video here.
On Friday, August 27th, comet Garradd had another “picturesque” moment… It swept by an often over-looked Messier object – M71.
But it didn’t pass by John Chumack!
At a distance of 1.402 AU from Earth and 2.193 AU from the Sun, Comet Garradd continues to brighten and will reach perihelion on December 23, 2011. That’s quite a difference from M71’s 13,000 light year distance! Right now the two are almost of identical magnitude, and while the comet has moved on, you can still find M71 in the constellation of Sagitta at Right Ascension: 19 : 53.8 (h:m) – Declination: +18 : 47 (deg:m).
And this isn’t the first time a comet has crossed paths with this star cluster. As a matter of fact, it was in looking for a comet that this bundle of stars was discovered by Pierre Mechain and dutifully and correctly logged by Charles Messier on October 4, 1780. Said Messier, “Nebula discovered by M. Mechain on June 28, 1780, between the stars Gamma and Delta Sagittae. On October 4 following, M. Messier looked for it: its light is very faint and it contains no star; the least light makes it disappear. It is situated about 4 degrees below [south of] that which M. Messier discovered in Vulpecula. See No. 27. He reported it on the Chart of the Comet of 1779.”
Imagine how impressed Mechain and Messier would be if they could see what John did 222 years later! He used a QHY8 CCD Camera and compressed the two and half hour video into the segment you see above. It was done at his Yellow Springs, Ohio observatory and shot through his 16″ homemade telescope.
Now that’s cookin’!
Many thanks to John Chumack of Galactic Images for sharing this incredible video with us!
If you haven’t already, it’s time to start looking for Comet Garradd! This comet, with the nomenclature C/2009 P1, is now coming into small telescope/binocular view so here’s your chance to see the brightest comet in the current night sky. You can find it in the late evening sky in the constellation Pegasus. Viewing it now, Garradd is just coming out the “fuzzball” stage, and its tail is just coming into view. Some say it’s much better looking than that other comet, Elenin, that has been needlessly grabbing some headlines. Comet Garradd was discovered two years ago by Gordon Garradd from the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, and is currently visible through a small telescope at about magnitude nine.
Throughout the next couple of months, Comet Garradd will get higher and brighter and cut through the Summer Triangle north of Altair. By September, it will drop lower in the west but remain visible in the evening sky until year’s end for observers at mid-northern latitudes. Comet Garradd will peak in brightness late next February at around 6th magnitude, so it could be visible with the naked eye if you have really dark skies. Closest approach to Earth happens next March 5, when Garradd will be 117.7 million miles away. At that time, the comet will be seen flying though the Little Dipper.
Other comets are also currently falling towards the Sun and brightening as they get closer include C/2010 X1 (Elenin), expected to peak near magnitude six in early September, 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova expected to peak brighten past magnitude eight in mid-August, and C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) which may become visible to the unaided eye during the early months of 2013.