Look Up

by

Scott McGrew

I hope you can take a moment out of your evening in the next few weeks and look up – there’s something really neat to see. A comet has exploded above your house! And you can see it with the naked eye.

If you’re not much familiar with the night sky, it can be intimidating to try to read a star chart or otherwise try to figure out where to look. So I’m going to keep it simple. Honestly, this will work.

  • go outside around 9:30-10pm
  • face east, and give your eyes a moment to adjust
  • now look up ’til you see that little cluster of stars all smushed together. Those are the Pleiades. You’ve noticed these before.
  • now move your eyes left – that would be towards the north – until you see three “stars” in the shape of a large triangle.
  • the star that makes the lower left point in the triangle is not a star, it’s a comet.

You won’t see a tail like you do with most comets. Comet Holmes seems to have ejected a great amount of material in all directions, and sort of looks like a fuzzy tennis ball. It will look like a smudge instead of a star if you’re looking with the bare eye. Use a good set of binoculars and you’ll see it much more clearly. A telescope is actually too powerful in most cases, in my experience, as the close in look lacks any perspective.

If you know your night sky (and don’t get all freaked out if you don’t) then look in the constellation Perseus. It’s just to the right of Cassiopea and to the left of the Perseids, directly above the star Capella.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter

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