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Mon Jan 11, 2016, 09:01 PM

Comet Catalinaís closest point to Earth

UPDATE JANUARY 7, 2016: Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) will pass nearest to Earth at a very safe distance on January 17, 2016. At its closest, the comet will be some 68 million miles (110 million km) from Earth. Thatís very, very far away Ė hundreds of times farther than the moonís distance. Still, itís fun to think of this cosmic visitor sweeping past, as it heads out of our solar system. The comet isnít visible to the eye alone, but binoculars should reveal it as a small fuzzy patch of light in your predawn sky. Try looking a few hours before sunrise. In the coming week, the comet is coming near on the skyís dome to the stars that form the Big Dipper. If you received a telescope or binoculars for Christmas, this comet would make a fantastic target. Current brightness estimates put Comet Catalina at a magnitude 6.2 to 6.4, just below the level for viewing with the unaided eye, but visible in binoculars, and a fine object for a small telescope. Notice the illustrations above and below, and youíll see how easy it will be to find Comet Catalina this month!

When and where should I begin to look? The comet has been in our predawn sky throughout this past month. Its brightness has been pretty steady. As the New Year begins, it will gradually become a night sky object.

The comet was closest to the sun on November 15, so it is moving away from the sun now. But itís still drawing closer to the Earth. On January 17, 2016, Comet Catalina will be at its closest point to Earth, about some 68 million miles (110 million km) away. Thatís in contrast to the moonís distance of about a quarter million miles Ö so you can see the comet is coming nowhere near us. Still, as it passes closest to Earth during mid-January, we might see the comet appearing a bit brighter than now.

By all reports, Comet Catalina has never risen above magnitude 6, the limit of visibility to the unaided eye. But it has hovered just below that limit. The moon was full on December 25, meaning its light is flooding the predawn sky now. But the moon will be waning, becoming smaller in our sky, in the weeks ahead. If you go to a location far from city lights Ė say, beginning around New Yearís, when the moon is waning in the predawn sky, you might be able to sweep with your binoculars and find the comet.

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Reply Comet Catalinaís closest point to Earth (Original post)
Cassiopeia Jan 2016 OP
cheapdate Jan 2016 #1

Response to Cassiopeia (Original post)

Wed Jan 13, 2016, 10:26 PM

1. I hope I get to see it.

I remember seeing Hale-Bopp from my backyard. It was an amazing sight.

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