From Skuz@9:91/1 to All on Mon Feb 20 16:06:35 2017
Comet 45P Returns to Dark Skies
It's rare for a comet to transition from pre-dawn object to evening target in only six days, but 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova's proximity to Earth made all the difference. When it passed only 7.7 million miles above our rooftops on February 11th, the green blob briefly sped across the sky at up to 9ø a day.
Lucky for us, it's been traveling west towards evening, while the Moon's been moving east. That's why, starting tonight, 45P/H-M-P will once again be
visible in a moonless sky. On the evening of February 14th, the comet will stand about 10ø high in the northeastern sky just before moonrise. Depending
on your latitude, you might get as little as 10 minutes up to a half hour of dark sky. Things quickly improve later in the week as 45P rapidly gains altitude as the Moon rises later and later.
45P/H-M-P got a lot of hype last week; unfortunately, the bright Moon put the kibosh on viewing such a diffuse object for small scope and binocular users. Not only that, but the comet wasn't as bright as expected. Some predicted a peak magnitude of around +6.5, but it never got brighter than +8. Such is the nature of these cosmic fuzzballs. They can thwart our expectations, follow
due course, or put on a surprise show.
As we move into a moonless observing window, the comet remains spread out and tailless. Because it's well past perihelion and leaving Earth in the dust,
it's expected to fade this week to around magnitude +9. That makes it fringey for 50-mm binoculars but likely still visible from a dark sky.
There is a link (black and white map), which plots a longer arc, might prove more convenient for outdoor use. The comet's position is plotted nightly for
10 p.m. CST. Stars are shown to magnitude +8. North is up. Showing Feb 14th
to March 2nd.