With moonrise after 10 o’clock, I drove out to the country last night to take in some dark sky and silence as well as to check out how Comet Hartley 2 was doing. In a previous blog, I wrote that the comet would become a binocular object by this time. Although fuzzy and still without a tail, I can report that the comet appears as a softly-glowing puff through 10×50 binoculars among the stars of Cassiopeia. Tomorrow I’ll provide a chart you can use to find it. It’s hard to say if the comet would be visible from bright suburban skies, but from rural areas I was surprised at how easy it was to see.
10 minutes after viewing Hartley in the scope, clouds came rushing in, swallowing the stars in great gulps. I stayed a while longer looking through the available holes and taking pictures. Earlier in the evening, I stopped along a road with a view to the west and hoped to find Venus. The time was 7:15 or 25 minutes after sunset. I thought it would be a snap to see, but the planet was so low in the southwest I couldn’t believe it. If you should try the same, go out 15 minutes after sunset and look far to the left or south of the sun to spot it.
Venus is quickly becoming a thin crescent as seen in a telescope or pair of 10x binoculars. It’s also moving back toward the sun’s direction and setting earlier. By the end of October the planet will disappear from evening twilight and move into the morning sky. We’ll have to wait until mid-November before Venus once again becomes easy to view, this time at dawn.