NEAT sunset comet

by Kevin McLoughlin

I was watching twilight from my office window, which looks out toward the Golden Gate Bridge, and noticed a bright not-quite-starlike object following the path the Sun had traversed about 25 minutes before. In a 32X monocular, it appeared as a short arc about 5' long with a lot of mottling and structure, and BRIGHT - perhaps magnitude -1.

After deciding from its rate and direction of motion that I was looking at some kind of astronomical object, I went to the S&T website and found out that, sure enough, Comet NEAT (C/2002 V1) was expected to reach perihelion on Feb. 18th. I think this has to be it, although it was *much* brighter than the mag 4 predicted for this date.

This is the kind of thing I love - when happenings in the sky just take you by surprise. If this clear weather holds up, I'll try to be prepared tomorrow with a telescope to take a closer look.