In Episode SH028 of Star Hopping…
We’ll show you how to find a new visitor to our solar system, Comet LINEAR. Then we’ll find the planets Mars and Saturn, close by the comet in the early morning sky.
So this week we’re going to jump forward a bit in time as there is a lot going on in the southeastern sky in the wee hours. Normally I would wait for the Earth to move along in its orbit some more, but we have another visitor to our solar system, Comet LINEAR, designated as Comet 252P, with the P standing for periodic, meaning it loops around the sun in a very long elliptical orbit, and shows up in our skies every 5 years or so. The comet is floating through the constellation of Ophiuchus. I captured it with the KPO Reflector this past weekend at around 3:00 Am – don’t worry, I slept in the next morning! The moon has been in the way until recently but now that it has returned to the evening skies as a crescent, it has left the morning skies dark and with that, the visibility of the comet has improved. The comet is now around 6th magnitude, which is barely visible to the naked eye, but will be easy in binoculars.
Since I have you awake that late, or early as the case may be, I wanted to alert you of a great sight in the morning, just a little south of the comet – the planets Mars and Saturn have collected in the constellation of Scorpius, and it is quite a sight in the southeast sky. Scorpius has a bright beacon of its own: the bright orange star Antares. So the trio of bright objects, along with the shape of the scorpion’s claws, makes for an interesting view!
So lets learn a bit more about Comet LINEAR, right after this…
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Credits for this Episode
- Star Chart Images & Simulations Courtesy of SkySafari Astronomy http://SkySafariAstronomy.com.
- Comet 252P image by David Hearn / Kissimmee Park Observatory