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Question About Comet Hunting

  1. Sep 23, 2007 #1
    Question About "Comet Hunting"

    So I I was glancing at the Google sky site when I happened upon a little clip about the Messier catalog. It was interesting to see that that was how it got its name, from a man whom was "comet hunting" and happened to catalog these other celestial wonders. (I am sure I just butchered that episode of history:wink:)

    But it got me thinking even more about the days when technology was not what it is now. I am sure the telescope that I have now it on almost equal planes with what they had then.

    How does one comet hunt? Don't they go by too fast to observe for more than a moment?

    Or am I once again butchering definitions? How long can you observe a single comet for?

    Any insight would be great,
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2007 #2
    Comets don't move very fast against the background stars, relatively speaking. You can of course, notice the change in position in a matter of days, but not seconds or minutes, so you can easily follow them with a telescope, at ease.

    Check this site... http://www.skyrover.net/notebook/ [Broken]

    If you want to comet-hunt with just a computer connected to the internet, then try this http://ares.nrl.navy.mil/sungrazer/
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Sep 23, 2007 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Actually, with a telescope you can detect motion in a matter of minutes for a nearby comet (for the moon, too). But that still means it takes days or weeks for them to traverse the sky.

    Today, most comet searches are computerized, but the method is the same today as it was a hundred years ago - look at the same object twice and see if it has moved.

    Unfortunately, I have yet to get a good picture of a comet, but here is what one I took a couple of years ago looked like in 5 minutes worth of exposures. http://www.russsscope.net/images/mac1-1-05.jpg
  5. Sep 23, 2007 #4
    Nice guys. Thanks. So I guess the seventeenth century was just, if not more slow-going!
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