Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Holmes Day!

It was one year ago today that Comet Holmes blew its stack. Normally a faint object aronud magnitude 17, Holmes brightened about a million times overnight, becoming visible to the unaided eye and surprising observers. Within hours the news was out, and folks around the world went looking for the "new" comet. I raced home from work and drove out to a dark site to get a view with binoculars. There's something special about seeing something that wasn't predicted to occur... you never know what might happen as you watch! Astronomy adreniline!

Holmes is properly comet 17P/Holmes, and has had outbursts like this in the past. No one knows why they occur, making prediction of the next one impossible. All an observer can do is to be ready to capitalize on fast-breaking discoveries: have your astronomy bag always packed with binoculars, pencil and logbook, and be ready to change your lpans at the last minute.

Here's to the next exciting unpredicted event!

Clear skies,

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