Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Too cloudy to see Comet Lulin

It's been far too cloudy for the past three days to see Comet Lulin where I live. How about you?

Thunderstorms are expected to drown out one of the most exciting evenings for local astronomers.

Suzanne Willis, interim chair for the Department of Physics, said Comet Lulin, discovered in July of 2007, will be most visible to the naked eye tonight between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m.

Willis said Lulin, which is located near the orbit of Saturn, will make its nearest pass by earth before leaving our range of visibility for good. Sadly for the Midwest region, Lulin will not be easily detectable through the storms this evening.

“Lulin is now observable to us for the first time, and it will be the last in a matter of a few weeks,” Willis said. “Comets are on very long orbits often for periods of 100 years, Halley’s Comet included.”

Visibility of Comet Lulin is best achieved with a very dark sky and binoculars to enhance details of the comet, Willis said.

According to National Geographic Daily News, Lulin could be on its first pass by the sun.

“As the object is exposed to the sun’s heat for the first time, its ices will vaporize, possibly causing the comet to brighten rapidly or even break apart,” the Daily News reported.

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