Comet 17p Holmes easy to spot

  • By Mike Lynch Special to The Herald
  • Friday, November 2, 2007 2:42pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

With the end of daylight saving time, it’s dark enough for stargazing right by 7 p.m. You can make the stars your old friends and still get a very good night’s sleep, but the trade-off is that you need to bundle up a little bit more and be prepared to have your lungs take in the colder November air. It’s worth it, though, as your eyes will take in some great celestial sights.

There’s a comet in the sky to start out the month. It called comet 17p Holmes, and up until recently it’s been faint and obscure, but two weeks ago it suddenly flared up to the point where you can see it with the naked eye.

It’s visible all night long, and for about the next week or so you should be able to see it unaided, although you can see it a lot better with a pair of binoculars or small telescope. I think you’ll like what you see.

It’ll appear as ghostly smudge with a slight tail to it and a bright nucleus. The best way to find it in the early evening is to look for the bright star Capella in the low northeast sky. It’s by far the brightest star in that part of the sky.

Comet Holmes will look like a fuzzy star to upper right of Capella about one to two fist-widths at arm’s length. Again, you’ll see it much better with binoculars or a small telescope

Even though it’s still autumn, some of the early bright constellations of winter are already on the rise on the great celestial stage. First, you can’t help but see a beautiful little star cluster shining brightly in the low eastern sky resembling a tiny dipper. It’s not the Little Dipper. That’s in the high northern sky.

What you’re witnessing is the Pleiades star cluster, the best naked eye star cluster in the night sky. See how many stars you can see in it. Can you see six? If you can your eyes are about average. If you can see seven stars you’ve really been eating your carrots. If you can see more than seven, you have super vision, or you’re just kidding yourself.

A lot of you may know the Pleiades star cluster by its nickname, “The Seven Sisters.” But believe me, there are a lot more than seven shiners there. With just an average pair of binoculars you may see more than a hundred stars. The Pleiades are a group of young stars almost 2.4 quadrillion miles away that were born together about 100 million years ago.

In the southeastern sky you can see the Great Square of Pegasus, the torso of the wonderful constellation Pegasus (the winged horse). The Square actually looks like a diamond since it is turned diagonally to our view. You can see a long arc of stars curving from the star on the left corner the diamond. That arc makes up the wing of the big celestial horse.

In the western sky there are still some summer constellations visible. Among the brighter ones are Cygnus, Lyra and ­Aquila. We won’t see them for too much longer, because as our Earth orbits the sun, these stars of summer will gradually set earlier and earlier in the evening.

Unfortunately, there are no planets to be found in the early evening skies this month. The bright planet Jupiter, seen for most of October in the low southwest sky, now sets before the end of twilight. But you late-nighters can watch Mars rise in the eastern sky after about 9 p.m. It is bright and definitely red as it climbs above the horizon.

Next month around Christmas, Mars will be at its closest point to the Earth in more than two years. Stayed turned for more on the holiday Mars invasion.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio on Minneapolis and author of the book, “Washington Starwatch,” available at bookstores and at his Web site, www.lynchandthestars.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Rose Freeman (center) and Anastasia Allison of The Musical Mountaineers play atop Sauk Mountain near Concrete in October 2017. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Musical Mountaineers’ sunset serenade to launch Adopt a Stream campaign

The nonprofit aims to transform into an “accessible model of sustainability,” with solar panels, electric vehicles and more.

Coupeville Beekeeper Bruce Eckholm collects a swarm of bees in Oak Harbor (Photo courtesy of Gary Gillespie)
Coupeville beekeeper wards off large swarm

Oak Harbor residents were at home on Thursday when buzzing thundered from outside.

Leslie Davis, left, and Lyndsay Lamb, twin sister stars of HGTV's "Unsellable Houses" and 2004 Snohomish High School graduates, donated a private design session to the school's auction fundraiser for their 20-year reunion. (Photo provided)
Got $2,000? Bid on face time with HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ twins

The sisters are offering up themselves in a fundraiser for their Class of 2004 Snohomish High 20-year reunion.

2024 Genesis G70 Sport Prestige RWD (Photo provided by Genesis)
2024 Genesis G70 Sport Prestige RWD

In my humble opinion, the 2024 Genesis G70 Sport Prestige sport sedan… Continue reading

Hyundai developed the 2024 Hyundai Kona platform with an electrified powertrain first. Exterior design of the gas-powered Kona (shown here) reflects the company’s transition toward EVs. (Photo provided by Hyundai)
2024 Hyundai Kona subcompact SUV is a grown-up

The feisty original has developed practicality and sophistication.

Joe Nichols will play Renegades in West Palm Beach on Saturday.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Country artist Joe Nichols comes to Tulalip Resort Casino on Saturday and the Edmonds Arts Festival offers three days of art.

Many famous design firms were built to last because sons joined fathers

Nineteenth-century silversmith Samuel Kirk’s legacy lives on today because his sons and grandson followed in his footsteps.

Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens to host 3-day plant-sale fundraiser

Described as “a gardener’s paradise,” the sale will feature plants and trees from individual gardeners and local nurseries.

Great Plant Pick: Bowle’s golden sedge

What: Carex elata aurea is a wonderful clump-forming, grass-like sedge with bright… Continue reading

Happy Father's Day greeting card for a gardener father. Garden tools in a round shape. Watercolor gardening tools with the sign "Happy Father's Day". Hand-drawn garden clipart.
Dads dig plants, too. This Father’s Day, find a gift to grow his garden

From maples and conifers to fountains, statuaries and tools, garden centers offer a diversity of gifts both fun and useful.

Louise Grevstad, 79, with her free ice cream outside of Safeway on Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds woman screamed — and got her free Safeway ice cream

Louise Grevstad, 79, was shut out from deals because she doesn’t have a smartphone. She didn’t think it was fair. So she went to the media.

Sam Schrantz waves a transgender pride flag during the Stanwood-Camano Pride event at Freedom Park in Camano, Washington on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
She was a ‘lone soul’ before starting a Pride event for rural Snohomish County

In recent years, groups have led celebrations in Stanwood, Arlington, Lake Stevens and elsewhere — cities where “we absolutely need to find each other.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.