Chance to see McNaughts Comet

Skyline Road in Lismore is as good a spot as any to scan the night sky for the glow of a passing comet - just ask Kris Whitney.

Kris, the long-time manager of Lismore City Councils crematorium and cemetery complex in Skyline Road, has been honing his amateur astronomer skills lately and taken several unusual photographs of McNaughts Comet which is currently gracing our night skies.

The comet, discovered and named by Australian astro-physicist Robert McNaught in August last year, is one of the largest comets seen in this part of the world for some time and it appeared in our night sky earlier this week.

It will still be visible to the naked eye for about a week or more but not in cloudy weather we missed the best couple of days for seeing it when it was closer to the sun and at its most brilliant with the tail at its longest, because of cloudy weather, he said. But it will still be brilliant and worth catching a glimpse of.

To view the comet, Kris said to look west in the area a little to the left of the setting sun.

But wait till it gets dark to see it ... four days ago it was glowing at you not long after the sun had gone down, and as it got darker its big long tail emerged from the darkness, he said.

Kris said the head or chunky part of McNaughts Comet was between 10 and 50 kilometres wide but its tail could stretch over an enormous distance of around 30 to 40 million kilometres in length.

They dont get much bigger than that its hurling past the earths orbit at about 45,000 kph toward the sun and will flick out on the other side of the sun and continue out. Its not coming back, at least not in our lifetime, as its classed a non-return comet. You should show your children now because theyre never going to see it again.

Kris said the comet posed absolutely no danger to planet earth as its trajectory was around 26 million kilometres from the sun and probably billions of kilometres from earth.

A keen amateur astronomer for almost 12 years, Kris has three telescopes to help him scour the night sky and often gives his three-year-old grand-daughter Georgia a look through them.

She absolutely loves to spot satellites, look at stars, planes or anything that moves out there, he said.


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