First Siting of Comet McNaught

It's been ten years since I last saw a comet--the last was Hale-Bopp, which was mighty impressive as it rose above the Mongolian tundra at around 3 am. So I was very excited when I found out recently about the appearance of Comet McNaught in the evening Aussie skies.  Tonight was the first night that we were able to see Comet McNaught, since the skies were relatively clear (actually we could have seen it on the 15th or 16th but in the past two days it was too cloudy to bother).  At around 8:15 pm we headed down the street from our home to Alison Road in Randwick, where we watched the sky above the Randwick Race Course starting around 8:30 pm.  At first all we could see was the planet Venus, but at around 8:45 pm the comet finally emerged.  There it was, around 240 degrees WSW, right above the airport (at first the planes landing and taking off made the search a bit confusing...) 

After catching our first siting of the comet, we decided to head over to the UNSW campus to see if we could find a better place to view the comet as it descended towards the horizon line.  Time was running out.  Instinctively I headed for the Scientia Building, where I had witnessed the transit of Venus in 2004.  Sure enough, the view from the balcony of the Scientia Building provided for a clear siting of the comet, which was heading into a bank of clouds.  Just before it did so at around 9 pm, I captured this image.  It isn't the clearest image you'll see of the comet, but at least it's visible.  Of course the actual view of the comet was much more impressive, especially with a pair of 7x50 binoculars.  The tail is very prominent and stretches about a finger's length (in other words, holding your finger out in front of you with your hand outstretched) upward, bending slightly to the right.  At around 9:15 the comet's bright head became lost in the clouds and the show was over.  Hopefully the next few days will bring more opportunities to see this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. 

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