Mackay astronomy group Tropical Stargazers members Mick Benedetti, Josh Green and Warren Maag watch Comet Lovejoy in 2011.
Mackay astronomy group Tropical Stargazers members Mick Benedetti, Josh Green and Warren Maag watch Comet Lovejoy in 2011. Contributed

Stargazers on cloud nine as comet approaches

THE comet of the century is set to blaze a trail across our skies and Mackay astronomers are starry-eyed with anticipation.

Though comets are notoriously difficult to predict, Comet Ison has astronomers everywhere on cloud nine over reports it could be visible to the naked eye during daylight.

Tropical Stargazers, an amateur astronomy group in Mackay, has already begun preparing for the big event, likely to occur in late November.

Group member Warren Maag said he would be taking every opportunity to snap the perfect photo of Ison.

"We had a good get together for the last comet that came through," he said.

"That was comet Lovejoy in 2011."

Comet Ison is predicted to pass within 1.2 million kilometres of the sun, when it will be most visible from earth.

James Barclay is a photographer and astronomer at the Maidenwell Observatory in southern Queensland. He said Comet Ison would be visible to the naked eye at night, even if predictions turned out to be wrong and it couldn't be seen during the day.

The comet's path is thought to be similar to one in 1680 that allowed Sir Isaac Newton to prove his Universal Law of Gravitation.

While there are yet to be any doomsday prophecies, Mr Barclay said it wouldn't be long before the "wackos from Waco came out of the woodwork".

"All jokes aside, comets were thought of as bad omens - when a comet was seen it was reported as meaning the death of a king," Mr Barclay said.

Comet Ison is believed to currently be somewhere near Saturn, heading towards the sun.

 

SUPER MOON IN JUNE

IT'S a lunar bonanza.

Australia will experience the biggest super moon of the year on the evening of June 23.

Due to water vapours, super moons often look larger when rising over the sea, and Maidenwell astronomer James Barclay recommended Mackay Harbour as a great place to watch.

"If you've got clear views to the east, along the harbour, you'll get great photos of it coming up over the water," he said.

"This larger view is just the moon being magnified by the atmosphere which contains water vapour particles which tends to give this illusion.."

A super moon is when a full moon occurs at the closest point of the moon's orbit to earth. Mr Barclay said a camera with a lens of more than 200 millimetres would be sufficient to properly photograph the super moon.

Solstice

 The super moon will occur two days after the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year.


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