COLUMNS

A comet cometh

DeWayne Bartels

The only thing more awe-inspiring than witnessing the birth of my children I have seen is the view through a telescope. 

When you look at a comet hurtling through space, a tiny section of the Milky Way, the Seven Sisters, Saturn's rings, Orion's Nebula or even a mountain range on the Moon it is hard not to realize how insignificant we are, yet, how fortunate we are to have this kind of technology at our fingertips.

There will be plenty of opportunities to ponder that this year. The International Year of Astronomy kicked off Thursday. This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope.

Mother Nature is providing us something interesting to view in light of this.

I was reminded of that Saturday when my new NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab Solar System Ambassador ID showed up. The Solar System Ambassador program is made up of volunteer amateur astronomers who provide education to the public.

So, here is a little astronomy education.

Comet Lulin is on its way to providing a spectacular views in Peoria. 

It is predicted to reach about 5th magnitude in late February, so  bright it should be easily seen in binoculars, possibly even visible to the naked eye on a clear Moonless night.

It's brightness indicates this may be its first visit to the inner solar system.

The comet is visible now, but in late February the view is expected to get much better.

Lulin is getting higher in the southeast just before dawn.

As the comet nears Earth in February its speed across the sky will increase. By the beginning of February it will rise around midnight. On the night of February 23rd, near its peak brightness, the comet will be visible near Saturn.

If this sounds like something you would like to see let me know and we can arrange to get you a view through my 8-inch telescope.

Contact me at 692-6600 or dbartels@timestoday.com.