Holmes Apprehended

Well, we did finally get to see comet Holmes through the telescope.  The small, bright, fuzzy spot in the sky under Perseus turned into a large, bright, fuzzy spot in telescope.

I knew the view wouldn’t be dramatic, but I really enjoyed it and was surprised by the image in some ways, even after seeing so many pictures.  But I was really afraid that the boys would be disappointed, expecting something more along the lines of a digitally enhanced Hollywood comet.  Thankfully, they were not, and they seemed to enjoy it, as well.  Everyone got a look, and we had the chance to talk more about how the telescope works and how the sky is always in motion.

At some point, one of the kiddos said, “Dad, what is that?” while pointing straight at the Pleiades.  We then talked about the “Seven Sisters” and aimed our telescope anew so that they could see some of the fainter stars in the Pleiades.  I told them that the Pleiades formed one of a handful of constellations mentioned specifically in the Bible, along with Orion and the “Great Bear with its cubs”  (Job 9:9, Job 38:31, Amos 5:8).  Actually, poking around the Pleiades probably took up more time for us than looking at the comet (no offense, Holmes).  They are a pretty sight.

After talking a bit about the hymn we sing at church based on Psalm 19 (“The heavens God’s glory do declare…”), we went back inside and looked up the Wikipedia entry on the Pleiades.  The pictures there were much better than what we were able to see in the telescope, and the article had the answers to some of the questions they asked outside which Dad couldn’t answer (I wish I could say that my “I don’t knows” surprised them, but they figured out Dad doesn’t know everything a long time ago…).  Then Boy #2 wanted Dad to read the verses in the Bible that mentioned the Pleiades, and Dad was happy to oblige.

The one negative thought I had that night — in the midst of what was generally a wonderfully pleasant evening — was that I couldn’t believe my kids were only now noticing the Pleiades.  It made me feel like I don’t take them outside enough.

“What’s that big, bright circle up there, Daddy?”

“Why, that’s the moon, son.  It comes out at night…”

Well, hopefully I made up a little for that evening.  It was a Sabbath night well spent.  To wrap up, I leave you with one of the Wikipedia pictures, courtesy of NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech:

3 thoughts on “Holmes Apprehended

  1. Not to sound like an astronomy elitist, but I always find it funny when people point to Pleiades and call it the Little Dipper. Of course, going back to my previous comments, the real Little Dipper is barely visible anymore in our cities, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Oh, and I couldn’t necessarily see a tail on Holmes, but I could tell that one edge of the comet was blurred more than the other side suggesting a tail. Pretty cool stuff. It would have been nice if you could have shown the boys Comet McNaught that was visible for a week in the Northern Hemisphere hailed as the Great Comet of 2007. I saw it one night and it was impressive…

    …And for my final comment: The Leonid meteor shower will be this weekend on Sunday early in the morning!

  2. Given where I live (in the middle of Houston) and given the usual haze and low clouds that seem to shroud the western horizon every day, I’ve had no chance at all of spotting Comet Holmes. I’ve been able to track it on my Starry Night program, though. Seeing Comet West before sunrise in my teens (when living in Tucson) is enough comet-watching to satisfy me, if need be.

    I always keep a close eye on the movements of the planets in the sky, especially Venus (when it is visible in the evening — right now it is a bright morning star, but I never am), Jupiter and Mars. And of course, I keep an eye on the whole section of sky that includes the Pleiades, Orion and the horns of Taurus (the Hyades) — this is my favorite part of the sky — and others such as the Summer Triangle and Scorpius.

    Recently I happened upon a “star party” and saw two globular clusters and the Andromeda Galaxy for the very first time through amateur telescopes. The globulars were surprisingly impressive. Andromeda was not, but it is the most distant naked-eye object and even in a good-sized telescope only the nucleus is really visible (at least in the Houston area in humid weather). It’s still impressive in a sense when you realize just how far away that gray blob is and that our own Galaxy would look pretty similar if viewed from the other end.

  3. Incidentally, you can tell your boys why the Japanese car maker Subaru uses a “little dipper” of stars as its logo. It’s because “Subaru” is the Japanese name for “the Pleiades” and the logo represents that open cluster. I verified the meaning of the name with a native Japanese speaker who had a Japanese-English dictionary with her.

    I remember looking at the Pleiades and the surrounding area through the “rich field telescope” owned by a fellow AC Pasadena student. It was an unforgettable view. Even at that relatively low magnification, one could see hints of the wisps of dust and gas that surround the brighter Pleiades. (I also saw the Moon occult — pass in front of — Jupiter and its moons shortly after sunset one summer, while still living in Pasadena; that too was an amazing thing.)

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s