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Countywide : Halley’s Comet Is Still Visible in Southern Sky

Halley’s fans will have one more chance to view the fast receding comet this month with a good pair of binoculars and a dark desert sky, said Joel Levine, an astronomy and physics professor at Orange Coast College.

The comet is still visible in the south and west parts of the sky, about 40 degrees above the horizon from 8:30 p.m. until 1 a.m., although experts say it will be hard to find without knowing where to look. Best viewing will be at about 9:30 p.m. from the high desert, the upper reaches of Ortega Highway in the Santa Ana Mountains and on the coast, if the sky is clear.

From a telescope the comet will look like “a faint, blurry star, surrounded by a circular ball of fuzz,” according to the Griffith Observatory Sky Report. The comet, which is visible every 76 years, is traveling at 71,000 m.p.h., 83 million miles from Earth.

Sky watchers may also see a three-day display of meteor showers, with best visibility on Sunday night, although they can be seen tonight and Monday night. About 10 meteors per hour can be seen in the dark sky.

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The meteors, or shooting stars, are made of dust particles shed from the comet, once forming its bright head and tail. As the earth crosses over the path of the comet, the earth’s atmosphere heats up the tiny, grain-like particles, causing them to glow and vaporize, Levine said.


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