StarGazing: Early risers comet treat
A new comet, C/2009 R1 McNaught, has been brightening all month and is now expected to become visible to the unaided eye before sunrise this week. Comet McNaught is already showing an impressive tail and is currently visible through binoculars.
This week, the new comet can be found very low in the northeastern sky at 4 a.m. , gliding through the constellation Auriga. The comet will pass zero magnitude Capella Tuesday morning, then much dimmer Menkalinan on Friday.
A clear view of the northeastern horizon is necessary to see the comet. Capella will sit only about 7 degrees above the horizon Tuesday, and Menkalinan will sit about 4 degrees above the horizon on Friday.
Even though the comet is expected to reach naked-eye visibility, or as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper (second magnitude), start your search for the comet with binoculars. Estimates are uncertain as to how bright the comet will get because this comet is a newcomer to the inner solar system and thus somewhat unpredictable.
First Published June 21, 2010 12:00 am