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 Post subject: Comet 46P/Wirtanen
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:22 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:53 pm
Posts: 265
Location: Maple Shade, NJ
Since the forecast for Tuesday night, October 30, 2018, looked pretty good while Wednesday night, Oct 31, looked iffy at best, I decided to attempt my first sighting of comet 46P/Wirtanen a day sooner, even though moonrise was about an hour sooner.

Therefore, I went to the Pines Tuesday night, arriving about 10:15 pm EDT. I initially looked with 15x56 binoculars and established the location of the field stars that would guide me to 46P, but there wasn't any sign of the comet in the binoculars.

I then set up my 12.5-inch dob, and between 10:45 and 11:00 pm, examined the area where I expected to see 46P. The comet was certainly not obvious. What I actually found was a small, dim, hazy patch near where my SkyTools print-out indicated. However, the printout was just a general finder, not detailed enough to pinpoint the comet. So, I checked a magnified SkySafari screen on my iPad, which I brought along. The position didn't match what I saw, so I drew a diagram of the star field plus the comet to against check SkyTools more closely when I got home (I left before midnight because of moonrise at 11:21 pm).

When I checked my hand-drawn diagram against SkyTools back home, my dim patch corresponded quite well with the SkyTools position. The SkySafari position was about 7 arc minutes west of the SkyTools position. SkyTools has provided reliable positions for many dozens of comets that I've observed over the years.

It was difficult to judge the transparency in the area around 46P, which is in Fornax now, since it's really devoid of any brightish stars. On top of that, it was only about 15° altitude at the time of observation.

Overhead, M31 and the Double Cluster were easy with unaided eyes, and in the scope, it wasn't too difficult to see NGC 206 in M31, and not difficult at all to see NGC 604 in M33. I was even able to see magnitude 5.7 Uranus with unaided eyes. Actually, I saw a pair of objects at the Uranus position. When I checked SkyTools after returning home, I found that Uranus was about 24 arc minutes from a magnitude 5.8 star, at the same position angle as my view with unaided eyes, so I evidently saw both of them.

It will be fun to follow 46P as it brightens into its mid-December maximum.

Joe Stieber

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