103P/Hartley 2

This comet got quite a bit of press, but has (thus far) shown only a dim fuzzball visually.  Perihelion will be Oct 28, and closest approach to Earth on Oct 20.  Unfortunately, this tiny rock will be at its' best during full moon, and will rapidly withdraw in early November.   As comets go, this one is having a closer approach than most, but is also a much smaller rock (dirty snowball) to start with.
 
My first observation (Right) was on Sept 11, 2010 at a dark-sky site (Danville MO).    I had arrived about one hour after sundown.  As I was setting up, I heard that Jim Trull had located it in his SCT via coordinates and I had to stop and take a look.  It was extremely tenous, but it was there with averted vision.
 
I finished my scope set up and went hunting.  Per my maps, it was then located just off the "hand" of Andromeda.  I pointed the scope, then looked into the eyepiece, ready to search.  Quite unexpectedly, I nailed it first try.   It was only slightly brighter in my 16" now, still not easily seen. I bumped the power up to 203x.   Surprise again.  The comet seemed to have shrunk.  The outer coma was no longer seen, but the inner coma along with what I wasn't convinced to be a p-nucleus stood out.  The comet's "inner coma" was very thin, and the "maybe" p-nucleus was only very slightly brighter, and not condensed toward the middle.  No tail or color were seen. Estimated magnitude was only 10.
 
 
 
 
Image #2
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My next observation (Right) was on October 9 at Danville.    The comet was now just off Eta Persei (yet another easy star hop).  The comet had grown in size, but still no color or tail.  Estimated magnitude was now up to 5.5.  I could still not see it in my 10x50 finder, and I was shocked when Joe Pastor found it using my 10x50 binos.  Sure enough, it was there!  Two eyes are better than one.    The coma showed slight condensation to center, and the p-nucleus was noticeable but faint at 60x.  It became pronounced at 203x.   The comet was really moving fast now, and movement could be easily detected in about an hour.
 
Our club had a very large crowd at Danville that night, and I believe almost everyone had a view of it.
 
 
 
 
 
 Image #4
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Latest observation report below (Click to enlarge).
 Image #1
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The second observation (Left) was on October 1, also at Danville.  An extremely easy star-hop, just below alpha Casseopeia (Schedar).  It now showed a slight condensation toward its' center, but no strong p-nucleus.  No color noted, and no tail.  No magnitude estimate was made, but it was noticeably brighter than on Sept 11.
 
 
We had 2 school camps that we served on Oct 4 and Oct 5 at Cuivre River State Park, and I showed this comet to the 5th graders at both camps (only the last half of the kids, once it was dark enough).  Most had never seen a comet before.  I prefaced their viewing with the fact that this was just a little comet, with no tail, and it was not very bright - but still worth looking at!   Still no color or tail, but I estimated the brightness now to be a mag 6.  Still, not visible in my finderscope though.
 
 
 
 
  Image #3
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Since the comet was now visible in Binos, I could not resist the opportunity to sketch it at just 10x.  Especially since I could (at the beginning of the evening) manage to squeeze the Double Cluster into the same FOV.  This is a very star-rich area, in the Milky Way, and I could not possibly take the time to do a fair sketch of that busy star field.  Instead, I did a quick-n-dirty job showing the nearest bright stars (and the Double Cluster, of course).
 
I am still hoping to see this comet from my home in binos.  I am holding little hope that it will show a tail visually though.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We've had a pretty cloudy Dec- January so far, and I have not been out lately to re-visit this comet.  My last observation of it was on November 3rd.   At that time it had remained a pretty good object in binos, and I DID manage to see it plainly from my front yard at home.  (See drawing at left).
 
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