55P/Tempel-Tuttle image of the day

January 06, 1998.

Image comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle

Credit & Copyright: Dave Strange, Worth Hill Observatory, UK.

Dave Strange reported: "The moon at first quarter was brightening the sky to the west, but my real target tonight was Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle (1997 E1). This is currently a morning object in CV, and tonight will rise in the early morning hours after the Moon has set. It's of interest as it is the parent comet of the Leonid meteor shower, and was originally discovered in 1865 Dec 19 by William Tempel in Marseilles and on 1866 Jan 6 by Horace Tuttle from Harvard. (Hey I've just realised tonight's the 132nd anniversary of Tuttle's discovery)."

"At discovery it was mag 6, but alas not so bright tonight. Having plotted its position on Megastar I realised that it was going to pass very close to the pair of interacting galaxies NGC 4490/85. Many of these faint comets although they are interesting objects to hunt down are fairly boring CCD targets showing just a feeble coma surrounding a slightly brighter central condensation. The chances in imaging them in the same field of bright galaxies to add interest are fairly few and far between, CCDs have notoriously small fields of view and in my case 10x7 arc mins."

"According to my software the comet would be about twenty arc minutes to the south of the galaxy and reach closest approach at a distance of eight arc minutes at 0200 hr. U.T. when I should be able to catch it in the same field. It always amazes me how accurate modern star charting software is these days - the comet was right on the predicted position but much fainter than the predicted 8th mag. I could only just see it visually with 50 cm f/4 x130 and I should say it was more like 11/12th mag."

"It was soon apparent that the comet was "motoring" along pretty fast at about 6 arcmin/hr., and movement was detectable after each 40 sec exposure. The comet itself was nothing to write home about, even half a dozen stacked 40 sec exposures didn't reveal much, perhaps a 2-3 arc minute coma extending easttwards. However, it reaches the closest to Earth in about a week's time, lets hope it leaves a good trail of debris in its wake, to give us a grand Leonid meteor shower next year."

Last updated: January 17, 1998
P. Jenniskens