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Closest view of a Comet! November 4, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Comets.
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Just an hour ago, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft came within 700 kilometers (435 miles) of Comet Hartley 2 at 10:01 a.m. EDT (1401 GMT) today, imaging with several cameras. Here are the first images released of the closest approach. I have this sudden urge to eat some Planters Peanuts.

Comet Hartley 2

Two things to notice , how rough the ends are where the jets are coming off, contrast that to the smooth center part. Later today even higher resolution photos will be released.

Robert Holmes Confirms the first WISE Space Telescope Comet Discovery February 9, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Comets, Observatory.
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Animation of WISE Comet discovery W007s0z

Robert Holmes used the first ground based telescope, the ARO 0.81-m to confirm the first WISE space telescope comet discovery now known as COMET P/2010 B2 (WISE).  Many large observatories attempted to confirm this discovery more than 7 days earlier including the Faulkes 2.0m telescope in Hawaii as well as the 0.81m telescope at ARO without success.  However due to poor weather, ARO had to wait 7 more days to make their second attempt at the WISE discovery on 2010 02 07.  Holmes and Harlan Devore located the target in ARO images at nearly the same time separated by about 800 miles.  Two other telescopes also confirmed the WISE comet discovery including the 3.6-m telescope at Mauna Kea operated by A. Draginda and D.J. Tholen and the Spacewatch 1.8-m telescope at Kitt Peak operated by J.V. Scotti.

For an animation of this discovery confirmation and the MPEC, see

Robert Holmes Wins the 2009 Edgar Wilson Award January 19, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomers, Astronomy, Comets.
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Bob Holmes is an adjunct faculty member in the EIU Physics department and director of the private observatory Astronomical Research Institute.

2009 Comet Awards Announced

Cambridge, MA – Finding a comet can be a quick way to get some immortal fame — and a little spending money, as well. An annual award of several thousand dollars for discoveries of comets by amateur astronomers has just been announced for five individuals in five different countries.

The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) — operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the International Astronomical Union (IAU) — has announced the recipients of the 2009 Edgar Wilson Award for the discovery of comets by amateurs during the calendar year ending June 11. This is the eleventh consecutive year that these Awards have been given; money for the Awards was set aside as part of the will bequeathed by the late businessman Edgar Wilson of Lexington, Kentucky, and administered by the SAO.

The following five discoverers receive plaques and a cash award this year:

  • Robert E. Holmes, Jr., of Charleston, Illinois, for his discovery of comet C/2008 N1 on 2008 July 1
  • Stanislav Maticic at the Crni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia, for his discovery of comet C/2008 Q1 on 2008 Aug. 18
  • Michel Ory of Delemont, Switzerland, for his discovery of comet P/2008 Q2 on 2008 Aug. 27
  • Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, for his discovery of comet C/2009 E1 on 2009 Mar. 14
  • Dae-am Yi of Yeongwol-kun, Gangwon-do, Korea, for his discovery of comet C/2009 F6 on 2009 Mar. 26

Bob Holmes receiving the Edgar Wilson award

The funds available for the first annual Award amounted to approximately US$20000 (twenty thousand dollars), as a total amount to be split among the award winners for that year; in the years since the first Award, the amount of money available has oscillated considerably, usually below, but sometimes above, the first-year amount (evidently due to the investment policies of the bank trustees, which are kept confidential). For the purpose of this Award, the Award year is the period of twelve months beginning and ending on June 11.0 UT. The first Award was for the year ending on 1999 June 11.0. The Award is usually announced within a month after the end of each Award year.

Comet Lulin is at closest approach tonight February 23, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Comets.
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Look to the East  at about 10:00 PM, Comet Lulin is  just  visible to the naked eye, but easy to see with a pair of binoculars. It is conveniently located near Saturn tonight.  Tomorrow night will be just as good, but since comets move, Lulin will be at a higher altitude from Saturn tomorrow.

Comet Lulin on Feb23, 2009 at 10:00 CST (J Conwell)

Comet Lulin on Feb23, 2009 at 10:00 CST (J Conwell)

Comet Lulin February 11, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Comets.
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Well it’s raining here in Illinois, but when it clears tomorrow, and through the month of February, a good object to look at in a small telescope is Comet Lulin . It’s even BETTER with a pair of binoculars .

Comet Lulin on February 2nd, glowing at magnitude 6.5 with tail and antitail. Click image for larger view. Paolo Candy

Comet Lulin on February 2nd, glowing at magnitude 6.5 with tail and antitail. Click image for larger view. Paolo Candy

The comet makes its closest approach to Earth (0.41 AU) on Feb. 24, 2009. Current estimates peg the maximum brightness at 4th or 5th magnitude, which means dark country skies would be required to see it. No one can say for sure, however, because this appears to be Lulin’s first visit to the inner solar system and its first exposure to intense sunlight. Surprises are possible.

Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin) was discovered by Quanzhi Ye, a student (age 19) at Sun Yat-sen University in mainland China, as an apparently asteroidal object on images taken by Chi Sheng Lin (National Central University, Taiwan) with a 16-inch telescope at Lulin Observatory in Taiwan on the night of July 11, 2007.

Lulin’s green color comes from the gases that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. Jets spewing from the comet’s nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

It is visible before dawn in the southern sky, as shown below and should reach peak brightness in late February and early March.