Of course, while it was nearest to us, I was an inpatient at our local hospital. Once out, the wife and warden, Melinda wouldn't consider my going out to darker skies. They had a point - I was recovering from a cute bronchitis (acute - get it?) and exposure to cold night air might not be good for my recovery. Even setting up a small scope in the back yard Sunday night didn't scratch the itch enough, so on Monday the 19th (20th Universal Time), with moon waxing through the week and a weather forecast that also looked bleak, I talked Melinda into letting me go out for a few hours.
The comet was visible to the naked eye as a greenish, not quite point-like star. It wasn't blinding, but was comparable to a 4th magnitude star nearby. In binoculars it was quite impressive! I used a pair of 9X63s that had a 6 degree field of view. From comet to Pleiades was almost exactly 2 fields of view, and the tail was visible in the binoculars reaching about 3/4 of the way to the halfway star. The binoculars also amplified the greenish glow of the comet's coma, though no color could be seen in the tail.
EDIT: Today, 29 January, I reworked the above images to use the camera raw files as starting point, rather than the original jpegs I used to quickly put up the post. If you recall the original files, they suffered from some color gradients that looked a little garish on some monitors. I think these are better. The fisheye shots below are still from the original processing from jpegs...
I also decided to try a wide-field shot with the 16mm Nikon fisheye, also at F/2.8. There is a huge confluence of objects large and small in this part of the sky, but as my time was running out, only got in 2 frames of 3 minutes each. The stack is shown at left, with a labeled version at right. Even with the Pleiades very near the zenith, the Zodiacal Light in the west nearly reached up to it! Between the Zodiacal glow, and the Winter Milky Way glow, the nebulae in Orion, the Triangulum Galaxy hiding towards the right edge and a multitude of open clusters, it is a very nice wide field.
I quickly packed and left for home, getting there a little later than I had promised, but still before 9:30 pm. Seeing the bright comet made up for any discomfort from the bronchitis, and while I'm still suffering some effects of it, can't say I'd be any better if I hadn't gone...
John Vermette. He forwarded a copy of a photo he had taken at the same time I was shooting! He uses more state-of-the-art equipment, a full-fledged CCD camera and a 4" telescope from his own back yard observatory near Foothills Mall. This exposure with the monochrome detector (black and white) was 10 frames of 1 minute each, with 100 seconds each of color information through red, green and blue filters. I think it is a spectacular image, particularly from town. You owe it to yourself to poke around his website, and especially check out this frame in larger size.
Unfortunately, it is at its brightest now, and by the time the moon departs the sky in a couple weeks it will be fainter, though still perhaps naked eye. I'll be taking a look - perhaps I'll see you somewhere under a dark sky!