How to See Comet Siding Spring as it Encounters Mars this October, article on UniverseToday.com
With excitement building as Comet Siding Spring rapidly approaches the Red Planet, we’ll soon have the opportunity to spot it through our own telescopes. Dark skies return this week with the moon now past full and rising later each night. Until recently, the comet could only be seen by skywatchers living in southern latitudes. Now it’s popped high enough above the southern horizon to see from mid-northern latitudes, albeit low in the sky. Observers with 8-inch (20 cm) or larger telescopes can follow the comet as it travels from Scorpius north to Ophiuchus and its encounter with Mars on October 19.
Until late September, the comet had been brightening as forecast based on the simple principle that the closer an object is to Earth the brighter it appears in the sky. Siding Spring came just shy of 1 A.U. of Earth in early September and has since been slip-sliding away. All through the first weeks of September it glowed at magnitude +9-10 and could be spotted in small telescopes trekking across the south polar constellations. Now on the cusp of its big moment with Mars, Siding Spring has been fading faster than expected.