A Naked Eye Comet

January 3, 2005
Comet Macholz

Throughout January, astronomers in the northern hemisphere will be watching the recently discovered Comet Macholz as it tracks across the sky. It should be visible to the unaided eye until late January and well placed in the sky for UK observers.
During January, the comet will track northward, passing through the constellations of Taurus, Perseus and Cassiopeia as it heads toward the Pole Star, Polaris. In the first few days of the new year, it should be visible about 10 degrees to the west of the bright orange star Aldebaran (the “bull’s eye” in the V-shaped star pattern of Taurus).

On the night of January 7 - 8, it will sail about 2 degrees (4 Moon widths) to the west of the easily recognisable Pleiades star cluster, often known as the Seven Sisters.

The comet was discovered by Californian amateur astronomer Don Machholz on 27 August 2004. During early January it is about 52 million km from the Earth , though the distance increases after mid-month. It will be at its closest to the Sun (about 180 million km) on 24 January. However, rather unusually, the comet spends its entire life outside the orbit of the Earth.

To find Comet Machholz, it is best to select a dark observing site away from major cities and street lights. Anyone familiar with the winter sky should look to the right of the bright constellation of Orion and then search higher in the sky for Aldebaran and the Pleiades. In binoculars, look for an object that is fuzzy compared with the much more distant stars.

Source: Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Image Credit: Adam Block (NOAO), AURA, NSF

Explore further: A good year to view the Geminid meteor shower

Related Stories

A good year to view the Geminid meteor shower

November 24, 2015

This year´s Geminid meteor display, the best of the annual meteor showers, will be visible from approximately the 7th to 17th December, peaking on the evening of the 14th. The meteors, or 'shooting stars', which are best ...

The moon greets the planets in the November dawn

November 4, 2015

So did this past weekend's shift back to Standard Time for most of North America throw you for a loop? Coming the day after Halloween, 2015 was the earliest we can now shift back off Daylight Saving Time. Sunday won't fall ...

Swift spacecraft spots its thousandth gamma-ray burst

November 6, 2015

NASA's Swift spacecraft has detected its 1,000th gamma-ray burst (GRB). GRBs are the most powerful explosions in the universe, typically associated with the collapse of a massive star and the birth of a black hole.

Prospects for the 2015 November Leonid meteors

November 11, 2015

A November rain hails from the Sickle of the Lion. Hot on the heels of the October Orionids and the Halloween fireballs of the Taurid meteors comes the Leonid meteor shower. On most years, the Leonids are a moderate shower, ...

Recommended for you

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.