Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko – Can we see it?

First of all I want to congratulate the Rosetta team on their successful landing of Philae on the comet surface.  When you consider that the spacecraft was launched 10 years ago, it was essentially designed and assembled with 15-year-old technology.  Back then, digital cameras were just entering the market and the Palm III PDA was the mobile device everyone wanted.  In fact, much of the code running on Rosetta and Philae was developed after the aircraft was launched.

Presently 67P is located between Jupiter and Mars, on its swing towards the sun. To give you an idea how far out it’s located in the solar system, it takes over 28 minutes for radio communications from Rosetta to reach Earth.  Therefore if mission control sends a comment to Rosetta, the results are only known one hour later!

Location of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 13th, 2014

Location of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 13th, 2014 (Credit: ESA)

Starting in May 2015 67P will become visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere, and will gradually brighten until achieving perihelion on August 13, 2015.  Because it does not venture very close to the sun, past observations indicate that it will only reach magnitude 11 at best; a challenge to backyard telescopes.

Better slew your observation by 9 degrees north, that’s where comet 141P/Machholz will be in the same constellation (Gemini) and at magnitude 8; a slightly brighter target.  And if you have no luck observing either comets or capturing them on photo, open cluster M35 is in the area.

Until then, you can follow Rosetta and Philae’s adventure on their blog: blogs.esa.int/rosetta/

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One thought on “Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko – Can we see it?

  1. Pingback: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko : Where is it, and where will it be. | Ben Backyard Astronomy

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