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Your first comet

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#1 icomet


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Posted 26 March 2023 - 03:51 PM

Well Yeah ! A comet forum. 


Here was my first comet I ever saw.

Image was posted in Sky and Telescope. 


C/1965 S1


Keep an eye on the development of this comet. 

C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS)

Predicted  Mag.  - 0.1 in October,  2024


Clear Skies. 

Attached Thumbnails

  • c1965s1 sm.jpg

Edited by icomet, 26 March 2023 - 03:52 PM.

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#2 dhkaiser



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Posted 26 March 2023 - 05:32 PM

My first comet was my best.  It was early 1976 and I was in collage taking an elective astronomy course.  The professor spoke of an early morning comet with directions on where to look.  I got up early and drove out of town to a dark site, armed with binoculars and my copy of Norton's Star Atlas.


I stepped out of the car and realized I did not need the atlas, nor the binoculars.  Comet West had broken up into 3-4 pieces and had brightened to -3 magnitude with a 30 degree naked eye tail. I stood there dumb founded and amazed until the comet faded in the morning light.


That was my only view of the comet as it remained cloudy for weeks thereafter.  Comet West fed my already budding interest in astronomy which has carried me to this day.

Edited by dhkaiser, 27 March 2023 - 06:31 AM.

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#3 Jaimo!


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Posted 26 March 2023 - 07:39 PM

My first comet was my best.  

Mine too, Halley's in 1986.

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#4 triviniu



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Posted 26 March 2023 - 10:07 PM

My first was IRAS-Araki-Alcock 1983, little more to the naked eye than fuzzy blob, but buzzing across the sky in just a day or two.

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#5 therealdmt



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Posted 26 March 2023 - 11:09 PM

Comet Kohoutek in ‘73/‘74, which was kind of a dud, and then more memorably, Comet West in about 1975, both from my childhood suburban backyard.


As an adult the first one that really made an impression on me was just recently, NEOWISE back in 2020

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#6 Uwe Pilz

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Posted 26 March 2023 - 11:19 PM

My first comet was Halley 1986. But the most impressive was Hyakutake 1996. It stretched all Ursa Maior and beyond ...

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#7 ziggeman


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 12:15 AM

Comet West. 1976 .That was a nice comet. Thats how they should look smile.gif


Edited by ziggeman, 27 March 2023 - 12:15 AM.

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#8 noisejammer


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 04:41 AM

I first observed 1P/Halley using a 12" f/10 Newtonian from the Johannesburg observatory. (I think this was April 1985.) To be honest, the blob was really dismal. Nevertheless, the late Dr Walter Wargau of UNISA persuaded ~30 folk to join the International Halley Watch as observers / photographers. We would operate from the Leiden Observatory at Hartbeespoort. Sadly, the observatory has vanished in favour of a golf estate and a college.


We were set up in teams of three that would show up for three nights then take a week or two off. This worked reasonably well for me until my return from a stint at the Wilderness Leadership School where I'd dragged my 6" and promptly contracted tick fever. I was hallucinating for a week or more.


Images were collected using a hand-guided 5" f/ 6-ish Cooke triplet which illuminated 8" square glass plates. This was a nightmare - I was completely unable to determine which side the emulsion was on. Others said they could feel it - I was guessing. The entire IHW dataset is archived here .. it's a good example of how changing standards can render digital data incomprehensible.


Anyhoo, I recovered from the illness and dragged my scope to Botswana and gave an impromptu talk at the Orapa town hall followed by a trip onto the Makgadigadi salt pan where we had a sand storm that bore down on us like a scene from The Mummy. Then it was off to Jwaneng mine where I gave a talk to the school kids (10-12 year olds) and showed them some of the southern gems.


Overall, Halley was a bust. Comets can be like that.

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#9 Robin


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 11:37 AM

What a nice way to start a comet subforum with a thread about "your first comet"!


The first comet I observed was C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake). I was 13 years old, on vacation in Toscana, Italy, during Easter holidays.

I didn't see the long tail that many people saw, partly because of foggy skies and partly because I was a beginner.


Even back then I did sketches of all my comet observations, noting date, time, instrument, and the constellation the comet was in. My notes say "Fernglas" (German word for binoculars, which was an Otsuka Kogaku 8x21) and "Fernrohr" (German word for "telescope", which was an Eschenbach Novalux 60/415 achromatic refractor - my first telescope).


Please find attached my sketch, which I still keep as a historical document.


Addendum: It may sound silly, but I'm kind of mad at myself that I didn't see 1P/Halley, when I was 3 years old. Because I would have had the chance to see two apparitions. :-)


Clear skies,


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  • HyakutakeSketches_Robin.jpg

Edited by Robin, 27 March 2023 - 11:47 AM.

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#10 Nick Dangerr

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Posted 27 March 2023 - 11:48 AM

Mine too, Halley's in 1986.

My first and best also!

#11 kasprowy


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 12:00 PM

My first was IRAS-Araki-Alcock 1983, little more to the naked eye than fuzzy blob, but buzzing across the sky in just a day or two.

This was the first I recall seeing. Had to go between houses to block lights. Nothing spectacular as you described, but good to see nonetheless.

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#12 Alex65


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 12:28 PM

My first comet was also IRAS - Araki - Alcock in May 1983. It was in the constellation of Cancer and near M44 when I saw it. As mentioned above, it was a naked eye fuzz ball but it looked fine through my little AstroScan and I could actually see changes in its position after only a few minutes. 

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#13 KMH


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 02:14 PM

My first was Comet Bennett in 1970, which was amazing from a very dark sky in central Illinois.  Then Comet West in 1976, which was very impressive even in suburban Chicago.  I took a number of photos of it, one of which was actually published in the Chicago Tribune.  I think they gave me $35, plus a nice tour of their darkroom (remember those?).



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#14 sdbodin


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Posted 27 March 2023 - 11:33 PM

Showing my age, Arend-Roland 1957. Visible easy to naked eye, all I had back then, from the center of Seattle. Probably a lot more to say about light pollution than the comet's brightness.

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#15 Napp


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Posted 28 March 2023 - 12:06 AM

Halley was my first comet.  I was living in south Florida at the time.  I drove out into the Everglades to get a darker sky.  After the typical hype the comet was very disappointing in binoculars. A few years ago I got into comet observing to some extent.  Of course the vast majority are little fuzzy patches in a scope.  But NEOWISE was so much better.

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#16 David Knisely

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Posted 28 March 2023 - 02:09 AM

My first comet was one I thought I had discovered by accident, but ended up being rather well-known: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (1972).  I had just completed building my 8 inch f/7 Newtonian and was trying to view M33 from my back yard when I ran into this little fuzzy spot.  I charted its position and noted that it was slowly moving, so after a 2nd observation, I got all excited and sent a telegram (yea, one of those ancient modes of communication) to SAO in Cambridge, Mass.  A few days later, Brian Marsden sent me a nice letter noting the comet's true identity, but complementing me on the accuracy of the two positions and the fact that I had waited until the 2nd observation to report it.  Even though I didn't discover anything, that letter did give my teenage ego at least small boost, because for the first time in my amateur astronomy "career", I had done something scientific in exactly the right way!  Clear skies to you.

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#17 starbob1



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Posted 28 March 2023 - 07:42 AM

My first was Hyakutake 1996' I was just getting into astronomy and just bought a Celestion 8in Star Hopper. I live in a rual area and it was in the North East' and was like pointing down. I was just amazed. Then the next year Hale Bopp'  in the western sky going N to S ' 2 bright comets back to back' that will never happen again. Hope we get another bright one again to my grandkids can see it. 

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#18 Phillip Creed

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Posted 28 March 2023 - 07:56 AM

My first comet was 1P/Halley as a 6th-grader.  None of my family knew anything about astronomy and all my star hopping skills had to be self-taught.  I honed in on it with a set of 7x35 binoculars.  Just a fuzzball, but the fact I'd found it out all by myself was a thrill I'll never forget.

I followed it every clear night through mid-January 1986 and didn't see it in March 1986.  I did see it in mid-April 1986 as it climbed northward.  Moonlight was starting to interfere, but I could cleanly make out the tail in the 7x35s.

The "Second-Halley" club has historically had rather limited membership and I'd be almost 90 when it returns in 2061.  I hope to live that long with all my senses intact to show my kids and grandkids.

Clear Skies,


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#19 mikemarotta


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Posted 28 March 2023 - 08:29 AM

My first comet was Hale-Bopp through the winter 1996-1997. I was working in Cleveland, Ohio, and many nights had a clear view over Lake Erie. 


Then came Neowise. We viewed it for one night in late July with binocular from outside Austin, Texas. 



Mike M.

Edited by mikemarotta, 28 March 2023 - 08:34 AM.

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#20 TxStars



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Posted 29 March 2023 - 03:35 AM

I was already interested in astronomy when I was young but became hooked for life when I saw comet West.

Over the years I have made it a point to view as many comets as I can.

I find them fascinating b/c each one is different and you get to watch them change as they make their orbits.

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#21 Lindhard


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Posted 29 March 2023 - 06:24 AM

My first comet was comet Bennett 1970.


Very impressive sight.


Here taken an early morning on 27. March 1970.


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  • Bennett-1970.jpg

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#22 scottinash


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Posted 29 March 2023 - 10:07 AM

Great topic OP!   This has me really searching and digging back.  My first officially observed was Halley's in 1986...wow! 


I think Comet Kohoutek around 1973 is the one that in my mind I feel as if I had seen it even though I don't remember seeing it with my own eyes looking at the sky.   It was being covered on the news as "comet of a century" and one of my school teachers told us about seeing Carl Sagan on the Johnny Carson show talking about it.  It was exciting and I started checking out every book I could find in the library related to space, astronomy, comets, etc.

#23 scottinash


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Posted 29 March 2023 - 10:19 AM

Definitely not attempting to divert the prime topic of this thread but I found this article which was pretty helpful as I was pondering the initial question - https://astronomy.co...ets-of-our-time


I do think I saw Comet West visually and with the K-mart brand 7x35 binoculars that my Dad gave me but I don't have any validations.  

Edited by scottinash, 29 March 2023 - 10:20 AM.

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#24 ziggeman


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Posted 29 March 2023 - 12:53 PM

In the beginning of 1974, I took a picture of the famous comet Kohoutek with a C14 , a focal reducer and film. I didnt actually see the comet visually but I got a faint fuzz on a film negative.

I was 13,5 years old and a member of a public Astronomy club where they had this huge orange telescope. I had to try.


Edited by ziggeman, 29 March 2023 - 01:22 PM.

#25 Arcticpaddler



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Posted 29 March 2023 - 01:43 PM

Comet Kohoutek in 1973. I was 11 years old and living in Minneapolis. Viewed it with my naked eye and through my 60mm refractor.


Next one was Comet West in 1976, the best I saw until Hale-Bopp in 1995-6, followed shortly by Hyakutake.


West was naked eye, even from the city, but much diminished due to light pollution. Hale-Bopp was stunning, with a long tail from my house in northern Minnesota, Bortle 3 skies.

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