Viewing Comet C/2010 X1 Elenin

Comet C/2009 P1 Gerradd visual impression the night of August 16, 2011 as viewed with 10 x 50 binoculars in light polluted yellow zone. I expected it would be difficult, but visible. Surprised that it was rather difficult. Not seen in my first attempts, confirmed much lower object M15 was visible in binoculars and higher M27 was also seen. Moon was low in sky, hidden by local terrain.

Returning to comet position, I eventually did see the very large dim diffuse coma. Mostly by using averted vision and knowing where to look. May have found it quicker without the moon in the sky. One must have darker skies to pick out this comet at this time. Future positions put it in the richer star field regions of the Milky Way.

I was able to located Comet Gerradd with a 8 x 50 finder on July 30, 2011 from a darker site, Promise Land State Park in Pennsylvania, and show it at a public viewing program to the attending people. Easy to locate that night, without the use of a chart just by knowing it was near Messier 15.

If you haven’t heard the other comet in he sky that is getting a lot of attention on the Internet is comet C/2010 X1 Elenin. A search will turn up an infinite number of web hits with all sorts of very imaginative misinformation. At times the Internet is more like a place for cranks and pranks. It becoming difficult for individuals to filter the hyped up conjectures from the reality.

Observing comet C/2010 X1 Elenin in the sky will be better in the morning sky in October 2011 that in the evening sky of September 2011. As this comet nears it closest point to the Sun, 46.6 million miles on September 11, 2011 it will become difficult to locate a 6th or 5th magnitude comet in the low western horizon after sunset. A good view of the horizon without a great deal of clouds would increase chances to observe this comet with 10 x 50 binoculars. The first week of September 2011, with the same conditions noted above, would be better time as the comet is at 30 degrees elongation from the Sun. Still must contend with twilight conditions.

There are two good guides to aid in locating comet Elenin in September, the star Spica and Saturn. Both of which are also low in the sky, with the comet below the region of Saturn. Begin with the star Arcturus, much higher in the sky, to locate either Spica or Saturn.

Morning sky in October

By the first week of October 2011, it is time to start looking for the constellation of Leo in the morning eastern horizon. By the end of the month Comet Elenin will move quickly higher in the sky and decrease in brightness at the same time.

At the time of this writing predicted visual magnitude estimates at the start of October are in the 4th magnitude range, to 6th magnitude by the end of October. Closest approach to the Earth is on October 16 at 21.7 million miles.

To locate this comet I have produced a nightly ephemeris using SkyTools 2 software.  C2010 X1 Elenin

Use the viewing aides in the previous article on comet C/2009 P1 Gerradd.

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