Three Morning Comets: ISON, Encke, Lovejoy+the Beehive+a Meteor
I managed to get up early today to check out the progress of the morning comets. As I have mentioned before, I usually drive down to the Douglas Spring trailhead at Saguaro National Park East. It’s close to where I live and since Tucson is to the west, the eastern sky is nice and dark.
First I went for Comet ISON. It is noticeably lower in the sky and it’s motion toward the Sun will be accelerating. Still, it was up plenty high when I got setup about 4:30am and started shooting.
ISON is visible in my 8×42 binoculars if you know what you are doing, but not impressive yet. It is more obvious in my 20x80s which I set up today.
Next I took a couple of pics low to the horizon hoping to catch Comet Encke, one I hadn’t bagged yet. Comet Encke is a short period comet that goes around the Sun every 3.3 years. However, it rarely gets close to Earth so you have to get it when the gettin’s good. Today, the getting was good. I found the nice little blue spec just above the Rincon Mountains. It’s the blue fuzzy one in the lower right.
Finally I turned my attention back to Lovejoy. Lovejoy is the highest in the sky, brightest and easiest to find. I was still able to get it in the same field as the Beehive cluster. Today there was the added bonus of a meteor streaking through the field (I checked Heavens Above to be sure I didn’t get a satellite…nothing nearly bright enough in the area and meteors were pretty active this morning).
So a good morning all in all. Hopefully will get another shot at them later this week. The Moon will be out of the sky until late this week. Starting next week, Moonlight will start returning to the morning sky so this is a great week to go comet hunting.
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