My childhood is punctuated with memories of my dad waking me up in the middle of the night, driving me to unknown locations, and then pointing something out in the sky. The earliest I can remember was driving over an hour, thermos of hot chocolate in hand, to Fundy National Park, where I saw the rings of Saturn through a telescope for the very first time. Once, while camping in that same park, he brought me out into the woods away from other campers and pointed out the diffuse glow spanning the sky that is our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Perhaps less visually impressive but equally memorable was when we went out into the back woods of French Village to see a small seemingly insignificant fuzzy dot—a comet.
Naked eye comets are rare enough as it is, but this month Comet McNaught has been making headlines around the world. In this picture, from Nasa’s Astronomy Pic of the Day, it can be clearly seen above the city of Krakow, Poland, just after sunset. Now there’s word (eg. from Phil Plait and Astroprof) that the comet is so bright that it’s visible in broad daylight.
Unfortunately, not only has the brightness probably piqued this past weekend, so with each successive day it’ll get harder to see, but Mother Nature chose today to finally start winter, so the Montreal sky is full of snow and clouds. Otherwise I’d be tempted to trek up Mount Royal and try to get a look at it. Hopefully it’ll be nice and clear tomorrow, so I’ll finally be able to get a look at this, the brightest comet in 30 years, far surpassing that fuzzy blob of my youth, if only in aesthetics and not significance.