THE BIG SKY
THE NEW YEAR sees a new comet sweep across UK skies. Comet Catalina US10 is likely to be invisible to the naked eye, but impressively bright in that new telescope you bought for Christmas. You’ll find the comet in the Saucepan. Not inside those trusty cooking implements stowed in your galley cupboard you’ll understand, but in the constellation of Ursa Major over towards your north-east early on January evenings.
The nights of 13 January through to 15 January give us the best opportunity to see this icy celestial visitor. Over three evenings it’ll sublimely scoot just to the left of the last star in the handle of the Saucepan, a star called Alkaid. Using binoculars from a rural spot on the canal network you’re likely to see the comet as an indistinct fuzzy blob of light. A small telescope should do better, resolving Catalina into a classic comet shape with tail sweeping backwards. Not bad going for a chunk of rock and ice that is likely no larger than a small town, yet is almost 300 times further away from us than the moon!