Sunday, March 1, 2009

A lulu of Lulin

My friend Burley Packwood, a fellow member of the Seattle Astronomical Society, captured this photo of Comet Lulin from his backyard in Green Valley, Arizona back on Feb. 25. Lulin has been zipping past Saturn and the constellation Leo this week, will be very near the Beehive Cluster in Cancer at the end of the week, and shoots on into Gemini later in the month. It was closest to Earth on the 24th, but should be visible all through March and well into April.

Lulin's official name is C/2007 N3, and is called Lulin after the observatory in Taiwan from which the photos were taken that led to its discovery in July 2007. The Web site for Sky & Telescope magazine has excellent charts to help you spot Lulin, which is visible through binoculars, and perhaps with the naked eye if you have excellent vision and a good, dark spot.

That's the challenge for astronomers in Seattle. The weather has been lousy for observing this winter. Even on a few recent promising evenings Weisenheimer had meetings, work, or was just too dang tired to get out and do any observing. At least we can live and observe vicariously through our friends who have backyards in Arizona! But hey -- as I write this on a lovely Sunday morning there are considerable patches of blue sky out there. Perhaps tonight is the night!

UPDATE: Within an hour or two after posting about blue sky, it had clouded up and we've had some rain. Apparently I have a certain amount of influence on the weather. When I develop this skill into control of the weather, I promise to use the power for good, not evil!

For those into the details, Burley shot his photo on the evening of Feb. 25. It was a 2 1/2-minute exposure taken through a Meade LX200 with an ST2000XM CCD.

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