Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Green Comet Lulin Visible For One Time Only

For the next few weeks, you can look up into the pre-dawn sky and see a green comet which is traveling backwards and making it's one and only appearance in our solar system. Called Lulin, after the Taiwan observatory where it was discovered by a 19-year old just 2 years ago, the oddly moving comet is about to race past us.

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It is also rather unusual since it is moving through space in a direction opposite to that of the planets at a very low inclination of just 1.6-degrees from the ecliptic. As such, because it is moving opposite to the motion of our Earth, the comet will appear to track rather quickly against the background stars as one observes the object from one night to the next.

"... on the night of the Feb. 24th, when it will be passing nearest to Earth, Lulin will be visible all night, rising in the east at dusk, peaking high in the south shortly after midnight and setting in the west around sunrise."

More info is here, and NASA offers some striking images of the comet as it streaks past the Earth:

Perhaps one should not use the word "striking" to refer to a comet, especially one that is green and moving backwards as it rockets out of our solar system.

It is visible in the southern skies currently, just after 3 a.m. NASA has more info on how to see the comet, which will be bright enough (perhaps) to see without magnification as the 24th approaches.

2 comments:

cc'd said...

Can you confirm the time zone 3 a.m.?

Cheers,
cc'd

Joe Powell said...

based on the origin of the article, i would say that's Eastern Standard Time.

this link (cited above)has sky maps and much more info:
http://www.space.com/spacewatch/090206-ns-comet-lulin.html