Comet Hartley 2 is named 103P/Hartley 2 and was discovered only in 1986. It is considered a young, dwarf comet, and part of the Jupiter family of comets. Hartley 2 comes into view approximately every six years. This will be the brightest comet of 2010, so don’t miss your chance to see it.
Visible in September with the help of a telescope, the comet will be visible to the naked eye in mid to late October for people in the Northern Hemisphere. On October 20th, the comet will come closest to Earth, about 11 million miles away. The next probable return of Hartley 2 is in April of 2017. Those in the Southern Hemisphere will have chance to view the comet as it leaves, in late November.
If you plan on viewing with the naked eye, you will definitely need to travel to a dark area, away from city lights. You will be able to see the comet with the naked eye as early as 11:30pm, though the best viewing time will be right before sunrise. Binoculars will be a huge help and get you a much better view of the comet. Locate the constellation Auriga in the northern sky, and look there. Hartley 2 should appear to you as a smudge. When viewed through a telescope, the smudge should sharpen a bit and you will be able to make out a tail. It is recommended that beginners at least use binoculars to find the comet, if not a telescope.
While viewing the comet Hartley 2, you may also see some meteors from the Orionid meteor shower, which begins on October 15th and peaks on October 21st this year. The chance to view a comet and a meteor on the same night is exceptional, go prepared and don’t miss out on this great event.
The next astronomical event for all to see will be the Leonid meteor shower, which will peak on November 21st.