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Comet brightens to naked-eye brilliance
Posted: Fri, Oct 26, 2007, 9:19 AM ET (1319 GMT)
An obscure comet has surprised astronomers by suddenly brightening to naked-eye visibility this week. Comet 17P/Holmes has been a dim magnitude 17 object, visible only with large telescopes, but since Tuesday the object has brightened by roughly a factor of a million, to about magnitude 3, making it visible to the naked eye in rural and some suburban locations. The comet, located in the direction of the constellation Pegasus, lacks a tail but does have a fuzzy appearance created by coma of gas and dust surrounding it. Comet Holmes is about 365 million km from the Sun and 245 million km from the Earth. Scientists suspect that some sort of outburst of gas and dust caused the comet to brighten, but don't know what triggered it and how long the comet will remain bright.
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