Thursday, 28 July 2011

A Southern Comet on its way to us

 Copyright © 1995 by Tim Puckett

This image was taken by Tim Puckett (Villa Rica, Georgia, USA) on 1995 December 28.99, using a 0.30-m f/7 Meade LX-200 and an SBIG ST-6 CCD camera. It is a 300-second exposure.

16 August 2011: Closest approach of the brightest comet of the year
Comet: 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková
Visible: August until September, fading in October
Magnitude: 6
Finder charts: Sky Guide (pg 31)


 The comet Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova is expected to brighten rapidly in August as it passes to the south of the Earth. It will be observable from the southern hemisphere for about 2 weeks before getting too close to the Sun.

At its closest the comet will be 0.060 AU from the Earth, that is about 9 million kilometers away. While this is close for a comet, it is still about 24 times the distance of the moon. When it is first at magnitude 10, on the evening of August 9/10 it will be visible from New Zealand throughout the night, setting only briefly during daylight hours. For the next few nights until August 16 it will be circumpolar although low in the sky in the evening. On the 17th it will set briefly in the evening to rise again about midnight.

Over the next few days, as the comet moves north it will rise after midnight so becoming a morning object. Its elongation from the Sun will decrease as the comet moves away from the Earth towards the Sun and it will rise later in the morning to become lost in the morning twilight by about August 23.

By mid September Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova will be an 8th magnitude object rising about 90 minutes before the Sun into the dawn sky. The comet will then be slow moving in Leo, a few degrees from Regulus. By mid October it will have faded to magnitude 10.

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is a periodic comet discovered by Minoru Honda December 3, 1948. The comet is named after Minoru Honda, Antonín Mrkos and Ludmila Pajdušáková. The orbit is elliptical with a period of 5.252 years. The comet nucleus is estimated to be 1.6 kilometers in diameter. (Information from Wikipedia.) 

Perihelion: 2011 September 28
Maximum magnitude about 7 


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