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Two Comets are visible in the night sky

Press Release – April 30th 2004

Two Comets are visible in the night sky

From now until the end of May 2004 two comets, both potentially visible without optical aid, will be in our night sky.

Comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT)

Comet Neat is currently visible in binoculars and faintly with the naked eye from dark sky sites. Binoculars are the best way to see the comet, however. It is above the bright star Achernar and will move northwestward over the next month.

The comet shows a tail in binoculars and will continue to brighten to easy naked-eye visibility by early May. The comet’s tail, which always points away from the sun, may extend to 20 degrees or more in length by the middle of May. At this time the comet may be stunning in the evening western sky near in the constellation Canis major.

Observers should allow at least 10 minutes for their eyes to get dark adapted before attempting to view the comet. Getting away from bright light is essential if you want a good view.

Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR)

Comet T7 (Linear) appears to be even brighter than comet Q4 (NEAT) and is currently low in the morning sky just before dawn to the east. Comet Q4 (Neat) doesn’t set (it is “circumpolar”) at the moment, and so early risers can see both comets at once. During the middle of May both comets will potentially be visible in the morning sky without optical aid. Two “naked eye” comets haven't been seen simultaneously since 1881. At this time the comets will be 84 degrees apart in the sky.

The Canterbury Astronomical Society will be running public viewing nights, weather permitting, on Fridays from April 30th until the end of May. The observatory is situated in Bells Road, West Melton. Phone 3479231. Visitors to the observatory who are not Society members will be charged $5.


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