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Comet ISON Spotted in Binoculars by Sharp-eyed Amateur Astronomers
What's Up: Brought to you by Jane Houston Jones
Color image of comet descending toward the horizon.
Comet ISON is now being seen in 10 x 50 binoculars. Over the next two weeks it will be moving straight down.The faint vertical line is the ecliptic. The comet will travel down that line to the sun on Nov 28. Image Credit & Copyright: Charles Bell (Used with permission)

Comet ISON has finally been spotted in 10 x 50 binoculars! The magnitude reported in the observations I have seen put the comet at about magnitude 9.5. (Sky & Telescope's Magnitude Chart)

In my last update I reminded everybody about magnitudes necessary to spot the comet. Unlike stars, comets light is spread out and diffuse and so it will appear a little fainter than a star of the same magnitude. To see with your unaided eye, a comet will need to be magnitude 5-6 or brighter. Through binoculars, magnitude 7-8 and magnitude 9 if you are under excellent dark conditions and can hold your binoculars steady. In telescopes one can easily see to magnitude 9-12. In a darker sky, an experienced comet observer or astrophotographer will see to fainter than that. I can easily see magnitude 13 and 14 stars and galaxies through a moderate sized telescope in a dark sky.

Use Mars as your signpost again for the next two weeks. On the chart, you'll see a faint blue line from Mars down to the moon, and horizon. This is the view for the morning of November 1. (The moon will not be there the next morning.) The blue line is the ecliptic - the apparent path of the sun. The planets, moon and sun are all found not far from this line. For the next few weeks, aim your binoculars or telescope at Mars and then move straight down toward the horizon. By November 15th the comet's position will be where the moon is in the diagram above.

Happy comet hunting everyone! I hope to see Comet ISON in my own binoculars Saturday or Sunday morning. If I do, I'll post an update here. If you see the comet, try to make a sketch or photo and send it to us!

For serious amateur astronomers, there are several other morning comets to view. Here http://www.aerith.net/comet/weekly/current.html and here http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/.

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About: Jane Houston Jones
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Jane is an astronomer, NASA science podcast developer, writer, educational and outreach artisan and social media enthusiast. She and her husband have an asteroid (22338 Janemojo) named after them.
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Last Updated: 31 Oct 2013