Monday, January 22, 2007


Makes Halleys Comet look like a dirty smudge

There has been much excitement here in Oz over the past couple of weeks over a very bright comet that has been doing the rounds around sunset. I mostly missed the buzz, having just come back to work from Christmas leave and concentrating on getting ready to move to my new job (a promotion...), but on Saturday night I got a call from my friend Ant. He was in Sydney and could see the McNaught comet clearly through the smog, so he figured that us schmo's in Canberra should have a great view.

My back yard is surrounded by trees and hills, so I didn't like my chances. However, when I wandered onto my back porch, there it was, bright as Venus and visible through the trees! I rushed inside and grabbed the camera, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing out on an embankment at the front of my house, managed to snap this shot.

I think what blows my mind more than anything else is that this is a non-periodic comet. That means this sucker is never coming back again - if you didn't see it this time, you'll never see it. It's on its way out of the solar system as we speak, never to return. A true once-in-a-lifetime event. Have I made my point?!

I think the other important thing to note here is that the comet was discovered as part of a systematic scan of the skies looking for asteroids, comets and other solar system bodies that might intersect with the Earth's orbit. This is bloody important work, because if anything is going to kill of humanity other than humanity itself, it's likely to be an impact from a near-earth asteroid.

For more info, check out this brief article in the Australian, or have a look at Wikipedia or even check out Robert McNaught's own homepage.

Ooooo cool shot!
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