Viewing Comet C/2009 P1 Gerradd
The next few months comet C/2009 P1 Gerradd will be bright enough to be viewed with small scope. Its peak brightness may just reach 6th magnitude. Don’t expect a naked eye object, as the comet brightness is spread over 5 minutes or arc nebulous coma and a 6th magnitude star is a point source. Even a 6th magnitude star is difficult to see for many observers. This will be the brightest comet to be seen in some time. The visual magnitude is running a bit higher that the predicted magnitude estimates, but not by much. There is a little hope it may become brighter, not Comet Holmes brighter, rather a nice object to be seen with a telescope or larger binoculars.
Comet C/2009 P1 Gerradd is not a sungrazer, and will not produce a tail the likes of Hyakutake or Hale-Bopp, it closes approach to the sun is 1.25 AU on December 23, 2011. It is inclined 106 degrees the ecliptic and will be in view for a few months and will make its closest distance of 1.27 AU to the Earth on March 5, 2012.
To locate this comet I have produced a nightly ephemeris for a few months using SkyTools 2 software. The magnitude in the list is fainter than the observed magnitude at this time.
Other sources online to locate this comet can be found at these sites.
This site has good chart maps produced each month.
Charts with stars magnitudes that can be used to estimate the comet brightness are on this site.
To follow the progress of the comet these sites list recent reported visual magnitude of comets in the sky.
My last view of C/2009 P1 Gerradd was from Promise Land State Park on July 31, 2011 EDT. With my TV101 I could see the coma with easy at 36X. I located without the use of charts by recalling the position it was a week ago and that it would be near by M15 by now. Scanning the region with the 8 x 50 finder I soon located this position of the comet. A much better view was had with the 12inch reflector of Nancy and Ray Krake. The brighter inner and ghostly outer coma were move evident in the eyepiece view. It was still low in the eastern sky around 10:00 EDT, not a sign of a bright tail could be seen.