Our Solar System Beyond Earth Earth, Sky & Sea


Comet McNaught 2007

In early 2007, C/2006 P1, which had been discovered in 2006 by Robert McNaught, became very visible where I live in south east Australia. I was an attendee at a star party at a rural location called Lostock in late January 2007 when, luckily for all those who attended, the comet was presenting a magnificent sight as it set in the twilight. On January 19, the whole party travelled to the top of a nearby hill and witnessed something very special. I at the time owned a fairly basic 2MP digital camera that could take 30 second exposures so I put it on a tripod and made my own record. The event was commemorated on a T-shirt, which I no longer wear and am thinking of having framed. The next evening I took another shot from down on the star party field. Venus was at the time near the comet's nucleus.

The comet was visible for some time. Back home in Wollongong, I went to a park in my suburb and imaged it again on January 26 then 2 nights later on January 28 at semi-rural Wilton, 30km NW from Wollongong.

Seeing a "great comet" - and Comet McNaught did become known as the "Great Comet of 2007", - is one of the ambitions of astronomy enthusiats. As of July 2019 when I created this page, this comet is my lifetime "great comet". Maybe, at 58 years old, I will still have the opportunity to see more. But if not I saw this one. It's a memory that will stay with me as long as my mind is working - which is hopefully for a few years yet!

I have seen other comets, including, briefly, the stunning Hale-Bopp in 1997, and many fainter ones telescopically. In 1986, one early morning in March I travelled from my then home in Sydney to Otford at the southern end of the Royal National Park. On the edge of a cliff looking over the ocean, I piggybacked my film SLR to my small refractor telescope, and took a 60 second exposure of the area of sky where Halley's Comet was just visible naked eye and clearer in binoculars. In this image, among the nebulosity of Sagittarius, I managed to record the fuzz of Comet Halley. I actually circled it with a pencil on the print, which I scanned in July 2019.

Our Solar System Beyond Earth Earth, Sky & Sea