We’re up in the cold north visiting our families for the holidays. My wife’s parents’ farm in eastern Ohio gets some pretty good night skies. I braved the chilly temperatures last night to find Comet Machholz in the sky near the feet of Orion. It was just a fuzzy ball in my binoculars, no tail or anything visible. Still, it’s fun to find these somewhat-rare sights.
This comet was discovered by an “amateur” who now has 10 comets to his name. Here’s his story about finding this one. Spaceweather.com has a sky map. There are currently some photos on a NASA site. Supposedly the viewing will get better in January, so I might try to photograph it then.
Update 2005-01-03: Back in South Carolina now and we finally got a clear moonless sky. The stars were very bright tonight and I was able to spot the comet fuzzball with the naked eye. I also tried it through binoculars and even my childhood telescope, but it just made it a bigger fuzzball; I couldn’t make out any of the tail. Updated SpaceWeather.com map and a good photo from an observatory.