Last night I decided to set up my Stellarvue 90mm triplet (on an alt-az mount, since most of my gear was packed up from a failed observing trip this past weekend). I thought I would do some observing of some of the milky way treats that I have not yet observed this season, and then turn in early, leaving the scope set up for my 2:45 AM rendezvous with the comet. I observed several Messier objects and some double stars, and decided to make a sketch of M17 (NGC 6618), the Swan Nebula before turning in. To the left is my sketch, and on the right is a sketch made by John Herschel in 1833.
Done sketching, I set my alarm for 2:45 AM and turned in. Turns out I did not need it...at 2:30 AM my eyes blinked open as if on cue, and I headed outside to find the comet. I had looked up the location previously and knew that it was in Perseus, not too far from Alpha Perseus (Mirfak). I actually know this area fairly well as in 2007 Comet 17/P Holmes made a spectacular and now famous pass through this same area, when it suddenly and without warning brightened by a factor of over a half-million. It was amazing through telescopes and was even visible to the naked eye.
Dean Ketelsen, fellow member of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, took the picture to the right of the comet on Sunday morning, about 24 hours prior to my observation. He posted it along with other images and his observing report on his *Excellent* Blog. (In fact, Dean inspired this blog!). He took the image from a lookout on Mt. Lemmon at about 7000 ft. Dean also explains on his blog that this particular comet is in a hyperbolic orbit, and is making one pass through our solar system never to return...Even more reason to hunt it down!