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Comet and Northern Lights Might be Seen Monday Night

orion
The constellation Orion. (Mike Daniels Photo)

The skies might clear tonight, January 18, according to the weather folks, and that means you have a chance to see a comet and maybe some Northern Lights.

The comet is very faint, but is visible in small telescopes just alongside and above the handle of the Big Dipper (look to the north). It is Comet Catalina and was closest to Earth yesterday. It’s outward-bound after swinging around the Sun. That gravity assist has sent the comet on a path out of the solar system, so we won’t see it again. Right now, the comet has two tails, but you’ll need a telescope or a long camera exposure to see them.

Meanwhile, the Sun was active recently and a surge of energy may cause Aurora January 18-19. Experts say there’s a 50-50 chance of at least a minor display of Northern Lights.

Even if that doesn’t happen, winter is a great time to get acquainted with the constellations – for instance, Orion (see photo). The three-star belt of Orion is easy to find in the rural dark skies in the Bitterroot Valley.

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