On the slight chance the weather would cooperate, I headed up to breezy, freezy, Switzer Mesa again this evening. Clouds were nestled stubbornly along the western horizon, but very slender gaps were slowly migrating through them. So I sat inside the warm car, got my 10 x 50 binoculars, propped my arms against the steering wheel, and hunted the cloud gaps for the comet. After about 20 minutes, I finally spotted the clean white coma emerging through a thin, ragged gap in the pink and purple clouds over the tree line of Mars Hill. Just below and to the left, the 24″ Clark dome at Lowell Observatory glowed pale blue in the darkening twilight. In the 15 to 20 seconds I had before the comet disappeared again, I noted about a half to three-quarters of a degree of softly flowing tail. The coma was very bright, and appeared elliptical, aligned in the direction of the tail. The observation was too brief to hunt for more structure.
As I was making a contour diagram of the comet, clouds, and distant Clark Dome, Brent Archinal and a couple other visitors showed up. We kept watch in the horrifying wind, hoping to catch one more glimpse, but the show was over for the evening. I may have to try for a midday telescope observation on Sunday when the weather turns clear again. I think it should be bright enough to see telescopically in full daylight, but finding it while keeping the Sun safely behind a structure may be too difficult. We shall see.
|Subject||C/2006 P1 (McNaught)|
00:50 UT – [RA: 19:47:50.5 / Dec: -14:01:50]
|Brightness||~ -2 vMag|
|Date/Time||January 11, 2007 – 5:50 PM MST
(January 12, 2007 – 00:50 UT)
|Observing Loc.||Switzer Mesa – Flagstaff, AZ|
|Instrument||10 x 50 Binoculars|
|Conditions||Partly cloudy, breezy|
|Transparency||~ Mag 1.0 + NELM|
|*Sources||Starry Nights Pro Plus v. 5.8, Aerith.net|