Feb 23, 2009 03:48 PM | 8
Early this week offers skywatchers their best shot at seeing the comet Lulin as it makes its nearest approach to Earth. In some locales it may be possible to spot Lulin with the naked eye, but a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars will help to pick it out.
To find the greenish comet in the sky, use one of Sky & Telescope's handy pdf charts, which track Lulin's location day by day. Tonight Lulin will pass just below Saturn in the night sky. (NASA has a sky map for finding Lulin before dawn on Tuesday.)
NASA's Swift satellite is already on the case, having given Lulin a once-over with its x-ray and ultraviolet/optical telescopes (see photo at left). Researchers are tracking what kind of dust and gas the comet is giving off as it passes near the sun—Swift measurements indicate that Lulin is losing nearly 800 gallons of water per second as it zooms through the inner solar system.
For those facing urban light pollution, untimely cloud cover or any other impediment to comet-viewing, some great images of Lulin have been captured and posted around the Web. As always, let us know (by posting a comment here or via Twitter) if you nabbed a good shot yourself, and we'll update this post with links.
Image of Lulin in the ultraviolet, optical and x-ray bands courtesy of NASA/Swift/University of Leicester/DSS (STScI, AURUA)/Bodewits et al.
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