Comet Garradd: Now Visiting the Inner Solar System
By Alan Dyer
SkyNews Associate Editor
This was the scene on the night of August 1/2, as a relatively new comet to our skies passed the bright globular cluster known as M15, in Pegasus. The comet is Comet Garradd (more formally C/2009 P1). Here, it glows with the characteristic cyan tint of many comets and sports a stubby fan-shaped tail.
As comets move in their orbits across the sky, they often appear near prominent deep-sky objects for a night or two. Comet Garradd has a number of such encounters coming up: It will be close to the globular cluster M71 on August 26, then near the neat Coathanger cluster from September 1 through 3.
Comet Garradd can be spotted now from a dark site in big astronomy binoculars (70mm-80mm) and is a fine sight in a telescope. However, it is well below the threshold of naked-eye brightness and is expected to remain so as it moves high across the summer sky from east to west and then into the western evening sky in late autumn. It is certainly well placed for viewing, but only comet aficionados are likely to pay much attention to it—plus astrophotographers taking advantage of photo ops like this one.
Imaged with a Canon 7D DSLR through an Astro-Physics 130mm f/6 apochromatic refractor. Stack of four 8-minute exposures at ISO 800. Comet image is only from the last frame (the comet moved significantly from exposure to exposure).
For charts and further details, see September/October SkyNews.
Alan Dyer, coauthor of The Backyard Astronomer's Guide, is program producer at the Calgary Science Centre Planetarium. He is widely regarded as an authority on commercial telescopes, and his evaluations of astronomical equipment appear regularly in major North American astronomy magazines.