Brightest Comet for Many Years
Comet 2006 P1 (McNaught) – the Brightest Comet for Many Years
Comet 2006 P1 (McNaught) has brightened rapidly and should be easily visible in New Zealand’s skies in the next few days.
From about January 15th the comet should be visible low down in the SW evening sky, soon after Sunset, and from about January 19th it should be visible low down in the SE morning sky, just before dawn. As the days pass the comet will appear higher in the evening and morning sky. By January 22 (for Wellington) January 20 (for Auckland) January 24 (for Christchurch) January 25 (for Dunedin) the comet will be visible all night although rather low in the sky around midnight. However as each day passes the comet will fade.
The comet was discovered by Australian astronomer Robert McNaught on August 7 last year. He discovered the then faint comet on a photograph taken at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales. On January 13, its orbit takes the comet within a distance of 25.4 million km or one sixth the distance of the Earth from the Sun.
Brian Carter, Senior Astronomer at Carter Observatory says, “Predicting the brightness of comets is not an exact science as comets are notoriously bad at obeying the formula!! Comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught) recently brightened unexpectedly but could just as easily fade unexpectedly. Comets are infamous for not living up to expectations!! However this comet is looking promising to be very bright, but we will have to wait until it has passed its closest encounter with the Sun (perihelion) on January 13 to be sure.”
Finding charts can be found at our web site www.carterobservatory.org but it is hoped that these will not be necessary as the comet should be easy to find in the sky.