Comet 17b/Holmes on October 30, November 2 & 4, 2007
A beautiful visitor but best kept at a distance
Comet Holmes was unlike any comet that I had ever seen in forty-years of observing
(I normally observe a couple different comets every year). This comet did not have
the normal tail associated with “regular” comets and its unexpected increase in
brightness over several weeks baffled even the best of the planetary scientists.
Each clear night I would observe and draw the comet as it grew from invisibility to
several times the size of the full moon (but much dimmer). She was a beauty bathed
in ethereal light and at its brightest was easily visible from my suburban house. Like
all comets, Holmes deserves some respect. The last major comet to hit the Earth
was June 30, 1908 in Central Siberia. It leveled over 2,000 square kilometers of
forests and sent a shock wave that twice traveled around the world. So much dust
was still in the sky two days after impact that it was said that at midnight you could
read a newspaper, from the dust’s scattered light, 10,000 kilometers away in England.