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17P/Holmes

It's a beautifully clear and cold night tonight, and the moon is beginning its eastern trek again as a waxing crescent. This and the next couple of nights are probably the last opportunities to view Comet 17P/Holmes.

I saw it tonight while walking the dog. It has traveled noticeably across the sky, now appearing very close to Mirfak (Alpha Persei, the brightest star in the constellation Perseus). The comet has dimmed and broadened considerably in the past two weeks, now showing as only a brownish smudge just to the northeast of α Per. The averted vision technique makes it quite visible; looking right at the star and comet gives a somewhat more ethereal view. The geometry is such that a (foreshortened) cometary tail is now visible, but that's a treat that still requires a telescope to see.

The moon's light will soon be in the way of viewing, and I'm betting that by the time the moon is out of the way again, Comet 17P/Holmes will no longer be a naked-eye object.

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