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As I write this gale-force winds are battering my home in Kendal, and wave after wave of icy rain is lashing my windows - not exactly good comet-hunting weather! In fact, I have yet to see Comet CATALINA US10 (which I'll just refer to as "CATALINA" from now on, ok?) because our weather has been so relentlessly awful.
I thought I had a good chance of seeing it for the first time on Friday morning when, lured out of bed by a sky full of stars outside my window at 5am, I trudged up to Kendal Castle with my camera gear, only to have the clear sky cruelly and mercilessly obliterated by a monstrous bank of cloud within moments of extending my tripod legs. By the time a gap in the cloud drifted over CATALINA's area it was half past six, and the pre-sunrise sky was too bright so I didn't see the comet, but I did manage to get some photos which will help me show you where to look for CATALINA in the days and weeks ahead, so it wasn't time wasted...
While other UK observers are having some luck seeing CATALINA - see the main news page for a report on how the SPA's own Paul Sutherland spotted it the other morning - observers in other countries are having much better luck, and their photographs are showing the comet has two distinctive tails, set at very sharp angles to each other, suggesting that when the comet has climbed higher into a darker sky in a few days time it should be a very pretty telescope and binocular object, and a very rewarding photographic target too.
One comet observer - Monika Landy-Gyebnar, from Veszprem, Hungary - had a lovely view of CATALINA earlier this morning, and her photos, used here with her permission, show what a promising object it is...
The negative version shows the tails more clearly...
Monica took her images using a Nikon D5200 DSLR, fitted with a Tamron 70-300mm lens set at 300mm and f5.5. The camera was mounted on an iOptron Star Tracker, and the images above are stacks of 24x 15 second exposures processed in Deep Sky Stacker. Talking about her images, Monica posted on Facebook:
"I had a clear sky for 2 hours, right at the proper timing today.. Moonlight was still less disturbing than the brightening of the horizon, but the greatest issue was a strong wind shaking my camera. Still I'm glad to have the pics, tails look fantastic! Catalina will be soon a very beautiful object as the sky background gets darker."
I can't wait to see it for myself, and I'm sure you're all impatient for your own first sighings too! As soon as I get a break in this Mordor-like weather I'll be back up at Kendal Castle, with my own iOptron tracker, hoping to get some pictures of my own. I've already posted a very full and detailed "Finders Guide" for CATALINA here, but as a reminder here's where we all need to be looking for the comet in the morning sky, a couple of hours before dawn...
Good luck everyone - and keep trying! The clouds have to part soon...
Added by: Stuart Atkinson