A Comet for the Comets

Some of you might know that I’m an Astronomy aficionado. With that said, here is a tidbit that is not strictly technology related, but still cool. There’s been a great deal of recent buzz about Comet 17P/Holmes. Comet Holmes was an obscure little ball of ice that suddenly and unexpectedly increased in brightness to about magnitude 2.5. This means that the comet is easily seen without the aid of binoculars or a telescope even in those areas where light pollution obscures many fainter stars.

Visible in the North East sky by the constellation Perseus, Comet Holmes is easy to spot with the naked eye. As of Sunday night, the comet looks like a fuzzy ball of light and stands out against the contrast of surrounding stars. The comet is currently lacking a “tail”, likely because the tail is pointing directly away from our earth based vantage point.

Sky and Telescope Magazine’s website provides great coverage of the day-to-day changes and a handy sky chart that will help one find Holmes’ position in the sky. Besides the wow factor, Comet Holmes provides a fantastic real-world tie-in to our science curriculum and underscores the notion that our solar system is far from a static “stale” place.