For my third day viewing comets before dawn, I got a special treat: ISON grew a tail!
It started out not so well this morning. Up at 5am, I checked out the windows and saw nothing but clouds. Ugh. So I got dressed and headed out anyway, just to be sure there was nothing to see—and I’m glad I did, because the clouds were covering about 80-90% of the sky, but that little spot that wasn’t fully covered was centered over Virgo!
There was only a slight breeze—nothing compared to yesterday. I guess it would be about 5-10 mph. Low enough that if it weren’t so cloudy, I would have pulled out the telescope, wind be damned. It was also the warmest it’s been in the past week at a balmy 35º. All in all, if the clouds weren’t there it would have been great!
So, resolved that I wasn’t going to get a great session in, I scanned with the binoculars looking for ISON and immediately found what looked like the comet from yesterday, only without the bright star-like nucleus (it was still there, just not nearly as bright), and with a faint tail that I could just barely see with direct vision! With averted vision it was clearly there, probably four to five times the width of the coma, stretching out towards Mars. It was a good chunk of sky southeast from where I spotted it yesterday, fitting with the rapid movement of this dirty snowball towards the sun:
The downside was threefold: (1) the clouds were moving and moving in fast, so I only had about 10 minutes to gaze at the comet before it disappeared in haze. (2) I could look at nothing else—Lovejoy was just gone. (3) There were no other background stars viewable in the 12x50s so I can’t confirm what I saw in Stellarium, but I’m pretty darn sure it was ISON.
The upside more than made of for that though: I got to see a comet three days in a row (well, not the same comet, but still…), and on top of the poor weather, I spotted ISONs tail!
Still looking for the distinctive green color so many people are reporting! Next I think I’m going to try for a wide angle photo…