13th January Machholz
Name
Martin McKenna
Location
  Maghera, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Photo Title
  Machholz sketches
Time and Date taken
  13th January 2005 0200UT and 0234UT
Equipment used
  Meade Starfinder 16" F/4.5 Dobsonian with a Meade Superwide 32mm eyepiece, and 10x50 binoculars
Capturing device used
  Eyes, hand, pencil and paper
Technical details
  Magnification of 57x and 10x Mag: 3.9 Dia: 25' D.C: 7

This is the most detail I could grab from this comet after its brightest using the 16" reflector. I regularly observed Q2 on and off all evening while I was busy hunting for new comets at the same time. I could not commit myself to a detailed look until the comet dropped in height as its current location made it very difficult to track in a large dobsonian. When the comet did become suitably placed I was ready for it with the 16" and 10X50 binos set up in the back garden. The coma was a vivid green colour, the central condensation looks smaller in diameter and softer, the centre of which was placed a bright star-like false nucleus. The false nucleus and central condensation were asymmetrically placed within the coma located to the west of centre. The coma itself is very large, well condensed and wedge shaped like the coma of comet 2P/Encke at its last apparition, the outer coma is quite diffuse in that's its difficult to tell where the coma ends and the sky begins, the coma needs a very transparent dark sky to see its full extent. The dust tail was very faint pointing 25' to the SE, tail is broad as it leaves the coma and seems to taper to a point some 25' from the central condensation. The western edge of the dust tail is brighter and sharper than the eastern, I suspected at one time it was curved but I could not confirm this. The ion tail was very faint and extended approximately 1 degrees to the NE, it was at least as wide as the central condensation, straight and uniform in brightness, several times I glimpsed a dark lane dividing the tail in two similar to CCD images of the comets tail. I think that the dust tail could possibly be edge on to our line of sight? I saw many bright blue streamers emanating from the coma at various position angles including one bright one which ran straight from the false nucleus into the ion tail. I glimpsed 3 very faint jets coming from the false nucleus but I suspected a fourth?

In the binos the comet looked much the same except the coma looked elongated to the east with faint material joining the ion tail to the dust tail describing a large arc. I cannot identify if this is material in the coma or a part of a curving dust tail caused by our viewing angle here on earth, it would just depend on the earth - sun - comet geometry. Detected the ion tail up to 3.5 degrees pointing to the NE with multiple streamers and other complicated tail structure. The dust tail is 1 degrees long pointing to the SE, the sunward side is again very sharp, bright and tapers to a point like a witches hat. Central condensation appears tear drop shaped in the direction of the ion tail looking similar to a spine but may be caused by a very bright streamer. Comets motion easily seen with naked eye against the back ground stars...lovely comet!

 
 

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