Deep Impact

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Main Question or Discussion Point

I did a search and only found old threads on this topic. Forgive me if I overlooked a recent one. :smile:


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050627/ap_on_sc/comet_buster;_ylt=Aqqas1CmhSpWUvnvJhgFt1as0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MzV0MTdmBHNlYwM3NTM- [Broken]

The big question is: What kind of fireworks can sky-gazers expect to see from Earth?

Scientists do not know yet. But if the probe hits the bull's-eye, the impact could temporarily light up the comet as much as 40 times brighter than normal, possibly making it visible to the naked eye in parts of the Western Hemisphere.
Can anyone give me a better idea of what (if anything) I might expect so see from the east coast of the US without a telescope? I'm not an astronomer, but I think it would be cool to see something like that. I'd just rather not stay up until 2am if there is a very small chance of me seeing something. Is there a guide anywhere that would tell me what direction to look?

I think they are also doing a webcast of the impact, but I would like to see it "live" also.

NASA - Deep Imapct
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
vincentm
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I live in Seattle, WA and i'd like to know what i expect to see, i plan on purchasing a telescope this weekend for about $200 and will be heading about 25-35 minutes out of town.
What scope can i get and what direction will i need to face?
 
  • #3
russ_watters
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HERE is an article and a chart on where to look for it.

"What will I see...?" is not an easy question to answer. Scientists have never done anything like this before and they simply don't know what to expect. However, it is unlikely that there will be anything visible to the naked eye. From the article, it predicts:
Comet specialists predict that the nucleus may brighten to 6th magnitude, though that's really just a guess. How long the brightening will last is also uncertain. Comets that flare up as a result of splitting apart can remain anomalously bright for months or years.
6th magnitude is the dimmest you can see on a reasonably dark night (no moon, no nearby cities). With binoculars, you may be able to tell its a comet, but it won't be easy to find. I will try to find it with my 4" telescope and computer guidance, but I'm really not all that optomistic about seeing much. I think I'll find it, but I don't know that it'll be recognizable to anyone who doesn't know what they are looking at.
i plan on purchasing a telescope this weekend for about $200 and will be heading about 25-35 minutes out of town...
What scope can i get and what direction will i need to face?
For that kind of money, it'll be tough. For about $175 you can get a 2" refractor with a manual equatorial mount, about the cheapest I'd ever recommend getting. But for this comet, that won't do you much good - it'll be pretty difficult to find manually.

Experienced amateur astronomers would recommend such a scope for a beginner, but I wouldn't. While they are good for learning astronomy, it is a lot of work to find things manually and you won't learn anything if the scope is too difficult to use and you never use it. I have one and used it, but I was pretty dedicated (read: nuts) and it was near impossible to share my experience with others: manual tracking means you have to be able to turn a knob while looking through the scope and if you want someone else to look through the scope, THEY have to know how to track objects too. I don't think my mother ever succeeded in that.

A scope like THIS for $240 has some basic computer guidance that will allow you to relatively easily find objects and give you a taste of what there is out there to see. To see detail on planets, you'll need higher magnification (2x Barlow lens: $25-$50) and to save your neck, you'll want a diagonal mirror (also $25-$50).

Download a trial copy of StarryNight, set it for the date and time you plan on looking and it'll tell you precisely where to look to find the comet - you can enter that into the computer controller and it'll go there for you.

Now, if you're a complete newbie, this may be more than you can do in the next few days. But if you're willing to spend all day (literally) learning how to use the scope and software and have one evening to practice, you should be able to find the comet.

And if you get really into it, pull the lens out of a webcam and attach a 35mm film canister (with the bottom cut out) and you'll be able to take some truly spectacular pictures of planets. See the astrophotography thread for some of mine (with that scope, you'd get about 2/3 the resolution of what I've gotten, unless you have really good skies).
 
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  • #4
tony873004
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What I'd like to know is how long after impact will it take for the comet to brighten? The impact itself might generate a brief flash. Is that what I should be looking for?

Or is it the outgassing from the impact that will brighten this thing? I imagine it will take hours to days for the debris to spread out into a coma large enough to be seen.

I live in San Francisco, where the impact will be visible about an hour before the comet sets. But I'm guessing that I'll have to wait till the next night at the earliest to see anything. I'll be using a 114mm scope.
 
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Thanks for the information Russ.
 
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050628/ap_on_sc/hubble_comet_buster;_ylt=AvZWZwyhhT0bm0ubwO.k2OWs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MzV0MTdmBHNlYwM3NTM- [Broken] is another related AP article. Sounds like I might be out of luck here in Charlotte. :frown:

The force of the collision will be equivalent to 4 1/2 tons of TNT, creating a flash that may be visible to the naked eye in a southwestern swath of the Western Hemisphere. In the United States it would be visible only in areas west of a line from Chicago to Atlanta.
 
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