THE BIG SKY

Canal Boat - - Boater’s Break - WITH SEB JAY

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!

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