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Comet Drawings and Observations

Comet Hale-Bopp, March 25, 1997, 0:00-1:10 UT, seeing 6, transparency 5.5.

Astro-Physics 7.1" f/9 EDT refractor on homemade Dobsonian-style mount. Magnification 29x (low power view on left, field of view: 1.73 degrees) to 101x-270x (high power view on right, field of view: 0.55 degrees).

Light yellow dust tail and a light blue gas tail. Dust tail appeared multi-threaded. Color of pseudo-nucleus and parabolic hoods is aquamarine. Noted two jets coming off of pseudo-nucleus connecting to inner parabolic hood.

This detail was similar to detail recorded by George Phillips Bond 139 years earlier in 1858 in Donatiís Comet using the Harvard Observatory's 15-inch refractor:

Below is a collection of some of my comet sketches and observations I have made over the years.

The first comet that I searched for using a telescope was Comet Kohoutek in January 1974. Unfortunately it was fainter than predicted, and not easy to find in my 60mm refractor. Because it had been predicted to be as bright as magnitude -4 (as bright as Venus), and it did not live up to expectations, when Comet West came along in late 1975 it was largely ignored by the press. So I missed it. This is unfortunate as it put on a fine show in March 1976.

In May 1983 Comet IRAS-Iraki-Alcock passed closer to Earth than any comet since 1770, and because of this I was able to see its motion through a pair of binoculars within seconds.

Since 1986 I have tried to observe and sketch as many comets as possible, because each has its own distinct personality and they often show changes from hour to hour and night to night. Making a sketch provides a permanent record of how the comet has changed.

The first comet I made sketches of was Comet Halley from November 1985 through April 1986. It was going to at its best in late April 1986.

However the comet was low in the sky for Northern Hemisphere observers. For example from my observing location the comet was only about twenty degrees in elevation before the onset of astronomical twilight set in. Fortunately at the time I lived in an apartment on the second floor with a good view of the southern sky. Some observers traveled to the Caribbean and the Southern Hemisphere to get a better view of the comet.

Here are links of two sketches I made of Comet Halley in March and April of 1986. Note that in the sketch made on March 22 the coma and pseudo-nucleus very bright and well defined, and I noted faint, almost straight gas tail, with dust tail more feathery:

Comet Halley, March 22, 1986

However during my observation of Comet Halley on April 3, 1986 the coma seemed larger this morning, very diffuse, with the pseudo-nucleus appearing slightly brighter. Noted faint dust tail, but comet no longer appeared to have a gas tail that was visible when I observed Comet Halley on March 22, 1986:

Comet Halley, April 3, 1986

I found out later that the gas tail had disconnected, which made the comet much less impressive during its closest approach to Earth in late April. This was particularly true for observers who had traveled south as the comet was in front of the Milky Way so it looked much less impressive without the gas tail. The gas tail began to grow again in May.

I use different techniques to record the detail in the comets, sometimes using a lead pencil on white paper or other times a white pencil on black paper. However the fine detail may not show up properly on all computer monitors. So after scanning the sketch in I reverse it (positive to negative) so it is easier to see the detail.

You can select the sketches individually from the list below or select one and scroll down to the bottom and the click the arrow button to view the rest of them.

"I have watched a dozen comets, hitherto unknown, slowly creep across the sky as each one signed it's sweeping flourish in the guest book of the sun." Leslie C. Peltier

"Comets are like cats: they have tails, and they do precisely what they want." David H. Levy

Comet Bradfield

Comet Bradfield, November 22, 1987

Comet Bradfield, April 30th, 2004

Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd

Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd, August 23rd, 2011 (Observing report)

Comet Hale Bopp

Comet Hale Bopp, March 25, 1997

Comet Halley

Comet Halley, March 22, 1986

Comet Halley, April 3, 1986

Comet 103P Hartley 2

Comet 103P Hartley 2, October 9th, 10th, and 11th 2010 (observing report)

Comet 103P Hartley 2, October 11th, 2010

Comet 17P Holmes

Comet 17P Holmes, October 31st, 2007 (observing report)

Comet 17P Holmes, October 26th, 2007

Comet 17P Holmes, October 29th, 2007

Comet 17P Holmes, November 5th, 2007

Comet 17P Holmes, November 11th, 2007

Comet 17P Holmes, November 12th, 2007

Comet 17P Holmes, November 17th, 2007

Comet Hyakutake

Comet Hyakutake, March 24, 1996

Comet Hyakutake, March 27, 1996

Comet Ikeya Zhang

Comet Ikeya Zhang, March 11, 2002

Comet Ikeya Zhang, March 16, 2002

Comet Ikeya Zhang, April 6, 2002

Comet Ikeya Zhang, April 11, 2002

Comet Ikeya Zhang, April 21, 2002

Comet Ikeya Zhang, May 4, 2002

Comet LINEAR C/2000 WM1

Comet LINEAR C/2000 WM1, December 8, 2001

Comet LINEAR C/2001 A2

Comet LINEAR C/2001 A2, July 3, 2001

Comet LINEAR C/2001 A2, July 16, 2001

Comet LINEAR S4 1999

Comet LINEAR S4 1999, July 8, 2000

Comet LINEAR S4 1999, July 21, 2000

Comet LINEAR S4 1999, July 24, 2000

Comet Lulin C/2007

Comet Lulin C/2007, March 16, 2009

Comet Machholz (C/2004 Q2)

Comet Machholz (C/2004 Q2), December 15th, 2004

Comet Machholz (C/2004 Q2), December 30, 2004 (observing report)

Comet Machholz (C/2004 Q2), January 2nd, 2005

Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught

Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught, January 12th, 2007 (observing report)

Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4)

Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4), May 12th, 2004

Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1)

Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1), February 28th, 2006 (observing report)

Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1), March 5th, 2006

Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1), March 8th, 2006

Comet C2006 M4 SWAN (2006)

Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN, October 16th, 2006 (observing report)

Comet C2006 M4 SWAN (2006), October 22nd, 2006

Comet C2006 M4 SWAN (2006), October 25th, 2006 (observing report)

Comet 73P-Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (2006)

73P-Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, components B and C (2006), April 21st, 2006

73P-Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, components B and C (2006), April 30th, 2006

73P-Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, components B and C (2006), May 7th, 2006

73P-Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, components B and C (2006), May 17th, 2006

Comet 8P Tuttle

Comet 8P Tuttle, January 7th, 2008 (Observing report)

Click left arrow below to view Mars sketches or right arrow to view comet sketches.