UT opens planetarium to view comet
Comet Holmes, first discovered in the late 19th century, has recently undergone a massive and unexpected eruption. As a result, the comet has increased in brightness by almost a million times in the past weeks. The comet is now bright enough to be seen with the naked-eye, even from light polluted urban skies.
“Think of a comet as a dirty snowball,” said Alex Mak, associate director of Ritter Planetarium at The University of Toledo. “Due to this eruption, fresh, white snow has been exposed and it reflects light much more efficiently than the darker, dirty snow.”
To allow people to observe the comet, The UT Brooks Observatory opened this week from 8 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, weather permitting.
Visitors are asked to meet in the ground floor lobby of McMaster Hall. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children 12 and younger.
According to About.com, a comet nucleus is about the size of a mountain on earth. When a comet nears the sun, heat vaporizes the icy material producing a cloud of gaseous material surrounding the nucleus, called a coma. As the nucleus begins to disintegrate, it also produces a trail of dust in its orbital path and a gas or ion tail pointing away from the sun.
Comet comas can extend up to a million miles from the nucleus and comet tails can be millions of miles long. There are thought to be literally trillions of comets in our solar system out past Neptune and Pluto, but only once a decade or so does one become near and bright enough to see easily without binoculars or a telescope.
For more information, please contact Alex Mak at 419.530.4641.