Comet now visible to naked eye after becoming 1-mln times brighter

November 14th, 2007 - 2:54 am ICT by admin  
This makes it visible to the unaided eye, as well as to binoculars and telescopes in the northern hemisphere area.

Comet Holmes is located in the constellation Perseus and is visible for most of the night. For observers at the latitude of Boston, in the US, the comet is circumpolar, never setting below the horizon. In appearance, it resembles a fuzzy, yellowish star.

On October 23, the comet was a dim 17th magnitude, 25,000 times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. One day later, its brightness increased to 7th magnitude.

The most recent observations peg it at magnitude 2 to 3: an increase of a factor of one million.

The outburst has baffled experts, as they find it almost impossible to explain how a tiny comet, whose nucleus is no more than two miles across, grow so bright so fast.

Brian Masden, director emeritus of the Minor Planet Center said: “This is a terrific outburst and since the comet doesn’t have a tail right now, some observers have confused it with a nova. In fact, we’ve had at least two reports of a new star”.

Some astronomers have suggested that a crack on the comet’s surface opened up, exposing fresh ice in its interiors to the Sun. This in turn, caused an explosive eruption of dust and gas, leading the comet to increase its brightness manifold.

Astronomers are now contemplating studying the matter closely in the weeks to come. (ANI)

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