Comet C/2006 P1 to make headlines in southern hemisphere.

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Akarsh Simha

Dec 19, 2006, 2:42:09 AM12/19/06
Hi all.

This is some news from various astronomy circles compiled by Amar and told to me, which is what I summarize here. He had posted (on comet_observing_india Yahoo! group) about this comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught) discovered by Robert McNaught, which is going to reach naked eye visibility. It will be a major attraction in the southern hemisphere, emerging after perihelion at about 3-5 mag.

Robert McNaught (on comets-ml Yahoo! group), the discoverer, has discussed its visibility and put up a table of date vs. optimum latitude for observation. The perihelion distance is expected to be 0.17 AU - which is EXTREMELY CLOSE! Members of comets-ml Yahoo! group describe this as "Comet Bradfield on Steroids" - a BRIGHT, TWILIGHT comet.

The tail is expected to be like a search-light beam extending upwards from the horizon as the coma is very close to the sun at perihelion, and hence very difficult to see (due to twilight). The comet, at the low northern latitudes of India (esp. Bangalore) is strictly a twilight object, making life really tough!

Comet Elements for Cartes:
    Paste the following line in C:\Program Files\Ciel\cat\planets\Cometes.dat file (assuming you installed Cartes du Ciel in C:\Program Files\Ciel - the default) to enable Cartes to show this comet:

C/2006 P1 (McNaught)                   |2000|20070112.7983 | 0.170741 |1.000011 |155.9780 |267.4146 | 77.8371 |10.0 |10.0 | MPC 57947

Then, open Cartes and go to the Preferences menu and select Catalog and Object Parameters. Select the Comets tab and select C/2006 P1 McNaught from the list and click Ok.
You should now be able to search for the comet's position using the Find option (binoculars icon) on the toolbar. To find, select Solar System Tab -> Comets Radio button and select C/2006 P1 McNaught from the Drop down list.

Our plans:
Robert McNaught predicts that for 12 deg. North latitude, the optimum observation is on Sunday, 14th January 2007 at 1830 hrs (evening). Cartes du Ciel shows that it is 5 degrees away from the sun at 4 degrees altitude at 1815 hrs. The coma magnitude is expected to reach +2 and this should be quite a challenge despite this fact. Cartes shows that it is half a degree from Mercury (4-5th mag) on the D-day.
   The speed at perihelion is obviously very high (Conserve Angular Momentum and verify this fact) due to very close approach and this means we have only no more than 2-3 days for observing this twilight comet.
   Amar and me have an ambitious plan of spotting this twilight comet atleast once in that period with wide-field binoculars. For that we'll need Western horizon with perfect visibility until horizon, even 1 degree! because the comet is going to be very very low at early twilight (when still lighted up). We plan to star-hop from Sun! and it should be in the same field of the binoculars. Anybody interested in joining please contact Amar on e-mail or me: +919840244714 (after Jan 1st) or +919945422780 (before Jan 1st).

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