Comet Wirtanen - maybe

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Rotorhead
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Comet Wirtanen - maybe

Unread post by Rotorhead »

I am 95% sure I found Wirtanen tonight. Lost it behind some trees :( after about 45 minutes of tracking with the 15".

Since the evening began clearing early, I decided to try for both asteroid 2007 TU 24 and Comet Wirtanen. The sky was clear but hazy, and remained average for seeing. There was no sign of the asteroid after about an hour of searching, so I switched to the comet. The guide stars (delta and epsilon Piscium) were visible and the comet should have been about equidistant, one full Telrad circle, to the south of both stars, so it should not have been difficult to get the rough FOV. Within this FOV, there were two distinct visual double stars and a short line of 5 mag stars to define the area. A candidate was quickly found, all alone in the FOV. Adding power, it appeared to be SLOWLY opening some distance with a lone field star at about 200x, and it had a faint 'comet-ty' color to it., and could not be brought to focus. Small, compact, no tail, but bright. The coma that shows in Pete's latest photos was not apparent visually. The object appeared to be in the correct location against the wider FOV field stars, but when I got enough power to see that it was fuzzy and blue, there was only that one star in sight. Over the observation period, the separation between the suspected Wirtanen and the star increased about 25% (I think...). I would love to have had about twice the observation period to be certain that the shift relative to the field star was not wishful thinking. Even the fuzzy appearance was not definitive, since the air was not steady tonight, and most things were hard to focus at high power. For instance, on Mars tonight, there were albedo features at 60x, which got me all excited, but I could not get a good focuse above 120x. So, take it for what it's worth: maybe I had a Wirtanen sighting tonight. :?
Bob M
15" f5 Starsplitter Dob/80mm Finder
5" Explore Scientific triplet APO on a Vixen Sphinx GEM
________
"He numbers all the stars, and calls each one by name." Ps 147:4
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Mark G
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Unread post by Mark G »

You tracked it's movement Bob so to me you proved it wasn't a DSO relative to the star in the FOV. Good job.

BTW very funny
Small, compact, no tail, but bright.
Spoken like the owner of a 15" Dob looking at a faint comet. :lol: :lol:

See Bill's image in the imaging section. He saw it too! 8)
Clear skies,

Mark

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Paul D
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Unread post by Paul D »

Well Bob,

Your 95% is good enough for me. I personally have no doubt that you saw it. We both have taken to this comet hunting thing and both have made our share of mistakes. So the chances of a repeat is not likely. When I looked on Guide 8 tonight I noticed its position and its a pretty easy get once you found the two doubles not to mention the lack of any DSOs.. So Congrats on nabbing it and with any luck Feb 9th will be my first shot at it.
Paul...

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Bruce D
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Unread post by Bruce D »

I'm on board Bob, sounds to me like you spotted the comet - way to spark!

This looks like another comet I'll never see, are you with me on that Mark? :lol: :lol:
Bruce D
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WCGucfa
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Unread post by WCGucfa »

Bob, there is absolutely no doubt you spotted Wirtanen. When you described the star field, it was exactly where I located it. Those two stars were the key to finding the field. It was really difficult to shoot with the LP and distance from the horizon.
I wish my asteroid mapping program was as accurate as my comet program, but it sounds like everyone is having the same problem with TU24.

Congrats!!

Bill
Comets:40, Best Meteor shwr: Leonids '01, Best Aurora:Oct. '03.
Total.Sol.Eclipse,7/10/72 from Nova Scotia.Annular Sol. Eclipse '94,
Trans.of Venus 2004&2012.,ShoeLevy crash into Jupiter '94.
4/25/66 fireball-9 mag.,SN2011fe,N2012aw,DelphN2013.
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Rotorhead
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Unread post by Rotorhead »

Thanks, guys. Okay, now I'm 98% sure. 8)

The real problem, as shown in Bill's photo on the imaging thread, is that once you zoom in tighter than those two field stars, the background was almost empty. The lone star that I used for judging motion was so dim that it was nearly an averted-vision star. Have you ever tried to gauge motion based on a star that keeps disappearing??? The wide-field view did not show it to be an obvious comet (too small and tight) and the high power view was not showing obvious motion. To tell the truth, I went inside to get a cup of hot cocoa while the scope tracked the comet, then came out in about 20 minutes to see if the distance between suspected comet and dim star was more obviously changed. The distance appeared quite a bit larger, but the whole shebang had gotten lower in the murk, and was starting to move behind a tree from my telescope position. :? This made the field star that much harder to see. Since this comet is tearing across the sky at about 1.5 minutes/hour, the motion was just hard to detect.

One reason why I like to hunt comets in a group is that it helps if another set of eyes can verify what you think you are seeing. For now, I'll have to wait for the sky to clear so I can go back to this same spot and find no little blue fuzz ball. Then I'll claim this for my comet list. :)
Bob M
15" f5 Starsplitter Dob/80mm Finder
5" Explore Scientific triplet APO on a Vixen Sphinx GEM
________
"He numbers all the stars, and calls each one by name." Ps 147:4
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Mark G
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Unread post by Mark G »

Bruce you may be right. If it's around this Saturday I'll turn UMD's 16" SCT on it. Then I may see it. :lol:
Clear skies,

Mark

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Bruce D
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Unread post by Bruce D »

I hear ya Mark, I figure if Bob has some doubt about seeing it in his scope my pathetic eyes aren't likely to pick it up in the 16" :roll:
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WCGucfa
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Unread post by WCGucfa »

When I first saw the field Wirtanen was in, and how bright it was, I really doubted the finder stars would be visible that low in the sky. Fortunately, the map was right on.
You should see the shots without the LP filter; I almost had to put my sunglasses on!
Tonight promises to be clear but windy. We'll see.
No matter how difficult, this star hopping to hunt these comets is a lot of fun, kind of like orienteering.
I'm also really pleased at how many comets have come within our reach in such a short span of time.

Bill
Comets:40, Best Meteor shwr: Leonids '01, Best Aurora:Oct. '03.
Total.Sol.Eclipse,7/10/72 from Nova Scotia.Annular Sol. Eclipse '94,
Trans.of Venus 2004&2012.,ShoeLevy crash into Jupiter '94.
4/25/66 fireball-9 mag.,SN2011fe,N2012aw,DelphN2013.
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Mark G
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Unread post by Mark G »

WCGucfa wrote: I'm also really pleased at how many comets have come within our reach in such a short span of time.

Bill
Yup it's feast or famine! :D
Clear skies,

Mark

iOptron CEM25P w/ Tri-pier
CGEM DX
LXD750 w/ CDS #1697
LXD75 w/ #497 autostar Hypertuned
Antares 8" f/5 Newt
Antares 4" f/15 "Vixen Spec" long focus refractor
Orion 4" f/7 ED refractor
Astro-Tech 65mm Quad APO
and so much more
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