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Comet Holmes easily visible to unaided eye

Last Updated on Friday, 09 November 2007 10:07
Published on Monday, 29 October 2007 00:00
Last week the normally very faint Comet Holmes underwent a major outburst and is now around a million times brighter than expected, making it easily visible to the unaided eye.

Comet Holmes is currently visible in front of the stars of the constellation of Perseus and looks set to stay bright for some days or even weeks.

The comet was discovered by amateur astronomer Edwin Holmes in November 1892. It takes a little under 7 years to complete an orbit around the Sun. At its closest to the Sun (perihelion) it is still twice as far away as the Earth - around 300 million km from our local star - and is always located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Most of the time Comet Holmes is extremely faint and only visible in large telescopes. This outburst is completely unexpected and the comet has also greatly increased in size. Through a pair of binoculars it now looks like a large fuzzy object with a sharper core.

The comet is seen at its best in dark skies, away from the light pollution of major cities. Finder charts for any location on Earth can be found at http://www.heavens-above.com/ and a series of images showing the rapid expansion of the comet are on the October 30 page of Astronomy Picture of the Day - see http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ for more information.