Earth and Sky reminds us that tonight is a good chance to see Comet Lulin, if you can see it at all from where you are.
Comet Lulin probably won’t be high enough in the east for decent viewing until 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Later at night is even better. At mid-evening, two respectively bright starlike points of light bedeck the eastern sky. The higher of these two lights is the star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion. Saturn is to the lower left of Regulus, its golden color contrasting to that of sparkling blue-white Regulus. If you can’t distinguish their colors with the unaided eye, try looking at Saturn and Regulus with binoculars.
Comet Lulin and Saturn will remain within each other’s vicinity all night long, until morning dawn finally washes them from the sky. Look for Comet Lulin and Saturn to swing highest up for the night around 1 a.m. on February 24, at which time they’ll be due south. If you’re up before dawn on February 24, look for Comet Lulin and Saturn in your western sky.
Astronomers believe this is Comet Lulin’s first trip into the inner solar system. There’s always an element of unpredictability associated with comets, especially a pristine comet like Comet Lulin. Comet Lulin may match, exceed or fall short of expectations, but there is no way to know for sure unless you look!
If you miss Comet Lulin by Saturn on February 23-24, try again on the night of February 27-28, when Comet Lulin will cozy up with Regulus!
I understand t The comet’s discoverer is a school boy 19-year-old university student in China, who found the comet in photos taken at Taiwan’s Lulin Observatory (usually comets are named after their discoverer, but not this time). Way to go, amateur astronomers! Way to go, cooperation between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.
And, if you have really great telescope, here’s what you can see:
- “Comet Lulin arrives tonight – break out your telescopes,” Discovery Blog at the Christian Science Monitor
- NPR story, “Watching the skies for Comet Lulin,” interview with the editor of Sky and Telescope (this is the most complete story I’ve found so far)
- Mike Dunford at the Questionable Authority offers a picture of why we need good scientists, or people interested in science, to report the science news, in “Bad Science Reporting at the AP: The Comet Lulin edition”