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Copyright 2009 Starry Mirror



Astronomy From West Virginia


Comet Christensen, 2006 W3, is once again visible in the evening sky.  The comet is moving very slowly through Cygnus, just northeast of the Northern Cross, and on the evening of July 16 we observed the comet at about magnitude 8. 


The comet is easy to see, and moderately condensed.  At higher powers, we observed a strong central condensation about 15 arc seconds in diameter.  No tail was evident though we thought we detected some elongation of the comet's coma toward the west. 


This is the first time we have seen the comet since last Fall.  Since then, it has brightened by at least three magnitudes, and is much larger, as well.  The comet is not particularly easy to find among the crowded Milky Way star fields, however.  The comet will remain visible in medium-sized telescopes for at least another year.  Unlike the occasional very bright comet which streaks close by the Earth and Sun and lasts just a few weeks, the evolution of Christensen seems to be in slow motion because it is very distant from the Sun.  Right now, it is about as far out as Jupiter, and it won't get much closer.  - GW

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