Comet Hartly has not become as bright as hoped, but it is still an enjoyable telescopic target. Clouds from the day's thunderstorms cleared up enough that I was able to spend some time with it while brilliant flashes of lightning decorated the southern horizon. At low power (37.5X) through the 8 inch Dob, it appeared large with a diffuse coma that faded smoothly to the background. The portion I was able to see was about 20 arc minutes in diameter. At 120X, the core appeared to have a very faint, stellar point that flickered in and out with the seeing. I'm pretty sure I had this distinguished from field stars as it seemed to hold its own as the comet moved across the field. The number of field stars did make it difficult to assess any elongation, so I was unable to pick up on either dust or ion tail. I did not detect any color. The comet moved about 4 arc minutes to the northeast over the course of 75 minutes from 10:45 pm to midnight.
I followed up with a look through 15 x 70 binoculars. It is currently situated in a tangle of 8th and 9th magnitude stars, so it's a little difficult to distinguish it from the light of these stars. Its soft glow actually makes the area look like a partially resolved open cluster. I had to make a couple trips back and forth to the computer to be sure I was in the right spot and wasn't actually confusing it with an open cluster.
0545 UT: [RA: 01 18 12.9 / Dec: 56 22 43]
0700 UT: [RA: 01 18 51.2 / Dec: 56 23 44]
|Size||Coma: 20 arc minute diameter|
Degree of Condensation: 2/ with faint, nearly stellar central condensation
|Date/Time||OCT 3, 2010, 11:45 PM - Midnight MST|
(OCT 4, 2010, 0545-0700 UT)
|Observing Loc.||Flagstaff, Arizona, USA - Home|
|Instrument||SkyQuest XT8 (8 inch f/5.9 Dobsonian)|
|Eyepieces/Mag.||32 mm Sirius Plössl, Pentax XW10|
|Conditions||Partly cloudy, calm, cool, humid|
|*Sources||Starry Night Pro Plus 5.8|