Tuesday, February 24, 2009

There's a weird, double-tailed comet in the sky this week (the last week in February), and you can spot it with a pair of binoculars — even through moderate light pollution. A few people have even been seeing it dimly with their unaided eyes in very dark, unspoiled, rural skies.
You'll have to know exactly where to look. The chart at right should get you there. It shows the starry scene about 9 p.m. this week.
(The viewing will actually be a bit better later at night, when the comet and its background rise higher in the sky. After 10 p.m., look for this scene higher and more toward the southeast.)
The comet, formally known as "C/2007 N3 (Lulin)", was discovered at Lulin Observatory in Taiwan in July 2007. In telescopes and low-light images, it's showing both a dim gas tail and a dust-spike antitail pointing in nearly the opposite direction. Its current brightness is about magnitude 5.2.

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