Sunday, March 28, 2010

Don Machholz has found his 11th comet!

The famous - and totally visual! - comet hunter has done it again: On March 23 Don Machholz hit on what would become comet C/2010 F4 (Machholz) while sweeping the sky with a 47-cm reflector at x77 from Colfax in California. The the 11-mag. object didn't move in the remaining less than 20 minutes before morning twilight got too strong, though, and Machholz had to wait a full three days before he could see it again and claim his first find after 607 hours of searching since the last discovery in 2004. So far the orbit isn't known well; the comet seems to be heading towards the Sun with shrinking elongation but constant magnitude from Earth, with a 1/2 AU perihelion in early April. Here are a picture from March 27 and another one.

• More nice comet pictures: broken Siding Spring (a video interview with the split's discoverer) on March 23 (wide-field) and March 22 (close-up), 81P/Wild in the night March 23/24 - and great image collections of past comet beauties by Michael J├Ąger and Ronaldo Ligustri. • Also a meteor caught on camera over Alabama (more, more), a meteor tv clip from Philadelphia, a space image of a possible big impact crater in the D.R.Congo, the outcome of the TAOS Kuiper Belt search via stellar occultations and the small object discoveries by WISE (which NASA reported wrongly first).

In other news Mars can still be fun as pictures from March 23, March 22, March 19 and March 11 show, but the planet is shrinking rapidly and is now smaller than 10" again. • An early picture of Mercury & Venus of March 27, now that the joint evening show of both planets has begun. And there can be something seen on Mercury with effort ... • Finally a nice bipolar sunspot on March 27 and a great ISS/sunspot conjunction with the same group (AR 1057) two days earlier!

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