How to view the faint, fast-moving comet

Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock is faint and fuzzy. It is a difficult object to see in the sky, even for skilled observers. However, should you want to try to spot it, the comet is moving through the Northern sky. On Monday evening, it should be in or near the bowl of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) in the Northwestern sky. By Tuesday evening, it should have moved a little past the Big Dipper. After that, it should be moving rapidly lower and soon will not be visible from the Northern Hemisphere. This won't help Southern Hemisphere observers, for the comet will be moving away from Earth and, hence, will rapidly be getting fainter.

Astronomer Steven Edberg of the NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., says he has seen the comet without any optical aid. However, it is advisable to use binoculars. Dr. Edberg says the comet is moving across the sky so fast - two degrees an hour - that, should you locate it, you should be able to see that it has moved within a few minutes. Two degrees is four times the diameter of the full moon.

The comet is expected to pass closest to the sun May 21 at a distance of about 92,160,000 miles.

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