January 2004 – Saw my first comet (C/2002 T7 LINEAR) with binoculars

This day was among those first enchanting days into astronomy. Probably this day was one of those after just being bit by the comet bug. There was a binocular level comet in the skies discovered by the computerized sky-survey LIncoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR). Named as C/2002 T7 it was around a 7th magnitude object fuzzy object in Pisces. I had never observed a comet like this, a faint one in my life before so I didn’t know how it looked, what to expect there, or whether will I be able to? I just had a finder chart from internet printed with me and knew that I’ve got to get a glimpse of it.

At this time it was slightly more than 2 years that I was part of an association in Bangalore, ABAA. This is the place which introduced me to sky-observations. And it was only around 6 months that I did sky-observations on my own. The members of ABAA had left for our observation site, Sivanhalli, beyond Bannerghatta National Park. I had to reach there if I had to observe something, and observations was the only thing in my life I didn’t want to miss. 3 of us were scheduled to leave separately, my classmate, a senior member of the association and me. Usually we used to leave at 3-4 pm having to reach the place before 5 pm, because of fear of wild elephants in the area. And it was around 6 that I was still in my house waiting for my classmate to arrive!! He finally arrived late, and me frustrated about the timing had to finally leave my house. I knew that this comet is in the western sky so will set some time after sunset. We finally reached the place somewhere around 8-8:30 pm, very late and very risky indeed. Many members were already associated there and were also doing general observations. No one seemed to know about the celestial visitor that we had that moment.

Our president, Mr. Dilip Kumar had got his 7×50 binoculars and they were quite heavy with metal body, so it was mounted on the stand. When we reached there, one member was already looking through the binoculars. And having reached late, every minute counted to me for seeing the setting comet. So as soon as I reached there, I asked this member to let me use the binoculars, which sounded rude to him. As a result after lot of begging he got fed up of it and had to give me the binoculars, rudely. But I knew that I would be needing it only for some time. I took the finder chart and looked at the constellation of Pisces, the Fish and inspite of it being a faint constellation with dim stars, I star-hopped from one star to other, naked-eyes. Finally I centered the binocular as per the chart and arrived at the position where the object should be. I stared and stared into the binocular and this was the first time ever that I had tested the real limit of my eyes, inexperienced eyes which had just begun this saga called deep-sky observing. But at the back of my mind, my eyes were telling that there is something real dim and fuzzy there. I had to give it a try in the telescope now. Having a rough position in my mind, I aimed the finder-scope of the scope there and moved the telescope here and there. Finally I stumbled upon something big and fuzzy, and quite bright. It was a long object, which is a good definition of a comet, the coma with it’s tail. It was whitish in color and I remember hardly anything about it’s appearance now. As soon as I saw it I didn’t announce it, I waited to have a good look at it whether can it be a comet or not, it didn’t clearly look like that to me except for being quite elongated. Then after seeing quite of it I announced it and told everyone there.

The reaction of everyone at this was that of real surprise, a new-comer finding a comet (bright or faint, it didn’t matter). I could see the “respect” everyone had during that night ever since I found it, everyone’s way of speaking had quite changed. That’s a moment of happiness for yourself, seniors and masters of the field giving “respect and affection” to an inexperienced 20 yr-old !! I was just a youngster then.

General observing sessions continued that night, and I didn’t find any new objects except for M83, the beautiful spiral galaxy near the tail-end of Hydra the Monstrous 1000-headed Water-Snake it was the first time that I found a tough celestial deep-sky object on my own with great difficulty. During those days, finding any new object for me was a very big feat, as I was never a talented observer, I was and am just a common observer. The Milky-Way, all around in our southern location, Sivanhalli, was the best memories I have of that period. It made you really feel as if you are one with the live sky. This was a time and place when my mind, body and soul was just one with the other side of Mother Nature, true Nature. Jungle around you and the dark night-sky above your head, both being composed by the Eerie Sound of Silence!! It was a feeling that my body will not be able to express, that emotion of being United, being One with the Elements of Nature. I really mean each and every alphabet of what I’m saying. Spending a night in this place under the dark-sky was like making me go through a mental trans-dimensional journey to the realm beyond Planet Earth. Me being a very emotional person, this did happen with me everytime. On the contrary, this place was a site of absolute terror to me, I was so scared here for observing here in this jungle area, that I never ever had the guts to go even 5 feet further alone !!! I just had to stick to the humans around me if I didn’t want to die out of hear-attack on the spot !! Yes that’s true. Absolute Terror and Chaos within me.

All in all it was a fantastic day, as are all my first observing sessions just a few years back. I saw my first comet which I remember of seeing this day and the story has further continued since then…

One Response to “January 2004 – Saw my first comet (C/2002 T7 LINEAR) with binoculars”

  1. digirak Says:

    Hey Amar
    way to go buddy, thats areal nice one, I wish I also have that kind of good fortune to start star hopping in the next couple of months or so, At the moment I am only able to identify thye constellation, Star hopping is some thing I am a real novice with

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