17P/ Holmes


17P/ Holmes on Nov 14/15th 2007 at 03.30 UT as seen through the 8.5" F/7 reflector. It had been a very cloudy night with thick fog so I decided to get up during the early morning hours incase the sky had improved. It had!. Through a veil of light fog I could see Holmes as an easy naked eye green elliptical patch of haze with no condensation very close to and NE of Alpha Persei located west of the zenith. The light fog soon vanished and the sky was absolutely incredible with a very black background and a trans rating of 9/10 - almost as good as the sky can get from here!.

In the 8.5" Holmes was an incredible sight with a transparent elliptical green coma which looked like a water colour painting. The S side was soft and indistinct however the N was bright, sharp, and beautifully shaped in a proud smiling curve with intense colour. Surrounding the this 'smile' was a very dark, thick, lip of similar shape which wrapped itself around the sunward side of the coma and acted as a marker between inner and outer coma.

At centre was an elongated dust fan pointing away from the Sun with a faint, soft, stellar point at centre which was either the false nucleus or a background star. The faint form extended into a long straight colourless ion tail which disappeared into the south fading quickly with distance away from the coma. It was perhaps 1 degree in length. Pointing to the SW was a short fanning multitude of ion streamers with very fine structure. Alpha Persei shared the same field and on the star's SW side I seen a haze of light extending to the S. This was either a reflection from the bright star or a detached segment of the Ion tail further down-wind since its recent disconnection event.

In 10x50s the same features were present except the straight tail looked longer as it dissected the cluster to the E of Alpha. I could also see the much larger fainter outer coma as a colourless incomplete disk. I say incomplete because the the NE to N side was visible with a well defined sharp edge however the SW to SE section was gone due to the brilliance of Alpha and cluster members interfering. Comet looks amazing!!.

Mag: +3.5? Dia: +20' (inner coma), + 60' (outer coma), Tail: >1 degree, D.C: 7

Session ended at 05.00 UT due to the arrival of thick fog. Before this I took 30 images of Holmes and observed several excellent meteors in the silent dark sky. One of which was my first Leonid of the year. At 04.30 UT I observed a mag + 1.0 orange Taurid meteor slowly pass into the NW sky for many seconds before fragmenting into 2 or 3 pieces before the main component finally disappeared into the Lacerta/Cygnus area.