Comet 17PHolmes with Pentax \*IST-DL digital SLR normal lens
By bnitz on Nov 16, 2007
As an amateur astronomer with a limited budget, I normally wouldn't pay much attention to a 17th magnitude periodic comet. There are thousands of comets, asteroids and other bits of space dirt out there. Most are dimmer than the 16th magnitude which puts them far beyond the reach of my F5.6 Celestron 500mm Maksutov here on the outskirts of a light polluted city. But when on the night of October 23rd, one of those spaceballs named 17P Holmes conveniently brightened a million times to magnitude 2.5, suddenly it was worthwhile looking at. Several of my astronomer friends hadn't yet heard of it and one was clouded out in Arizona but Ireland has been blessed with some clear nights so I dragged out my F5.6 500mm Maksutov "spotting scope" and binoculars. It was easily visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch about midway between the left (bottom) side of the W in Cassiopeia and the Pleiades. In the telescope it was much bigger, but I actually think the most pleasing view was in a pair of 10X50 binoculars. I took a few photos through the telescope but I don't have a tracking mechanism so exposures were very short. So this photo was taken through my 50mm F1.4 "normal" lens. 8 seconds at ISO 1600 and F 2.8 showed what it might look like from a dark site to someone with good eyesight. The only modifications I made to the image was to scale it to fit on this blog site and adjust the gamma curves to hide some of the ugly red skyglow from nearby sodium vapor streetlights.There are quite a few good photos on spaceweather.com as well as a finder chart. If you have a clear night, have a look. The comet changes every night and is growing larger. It has already grown bigger than the Sun and from earth the outer shell's apparent size is probably about 1/4 the apparent diameter of the moon.