Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Comet Holmes still naked eye; meets Chen-Gao

Exactly 5 months after its outburst the famous comet was still "was faintly, fleetingly visible with the naked eye on 2:15 UT March 24 under transparent skies (mag. 6.5 stars visible)," reports one Bob: "The comet appeared as a uniform smudge approximately 1/2 degree across. 10x50 binoculars showed a dim puff that was 1 1/4 degrees across". Tomorrow and the day after Holmes will be visited by Chen-Gao which will approach it to within 1° and may actually be seen in front of the coma - interesting especially for astrophotographers. While Holmes has been estimated at 5th mag recently, Chen-Gao is at 9th - and will be occulted by the Moon in April for East Asia, another photo challenge.

In other news three papers in the mail today deal with the extraordinary "naked-eye GRB" (42 pages, only 5 days after the event!), the demise of a bizarre 'discovery' in spiral galaxy statistics (already discussed by the Galaxy Zoo and Bad Astronomy blogs in January - an interesting cautionary tale) and the statistics of exoplanet discoveries at Keck: One can extrapolate "17-20% of stars having gas giant planets within 20 AU".

• Here's an unexpected March 24 Mars with details, caught in daytime. • The two sunspot groups are still growing and also nice in H-Alpha. • Finally the new "Bond" is currently shooting on Cerro Paranal: The producers liked the futuristic residential complex of the European Southern Observatory's main site. Only that "Residencia" and the airstrip will be used as locations, the actual telescopes or their buildings will not be involved - in contrast to another movie years ago ...

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