Mar. 16th, 2013

rcking: (telescope1)
(While searching for an extremely hard to spot comet, it is easy to let one's mind wander)

The Kohoutek Scale of Cometary Disappointment

(a scale for rating comets which never become visible to the naked eye and completely disappoint the novice viewer)

K1 - Comet mentioned only in astronomy oriented publications. Described at some point as "visible to the naked eye"
Effects: a few amateur comet hunters are mildly disappointed. No significant damage.

K2 - Comet mentioned by several astronomy popularizing blogs, described in moderate terms to manage expectations.
Effects: a modest number of novice comet hunters are disappointed. Some loss of enthusiasm.

K3 - Comet mentioned in some branches of the popular press, complete with sky maps for novice observers.
Effects: a larger number of novice comet hunters are disappointed. Some decide that web surfing is more fun and may not bother next time.

K4 - Comet mentioned in all relevant branches of the popular press weeks in advance with maps and expert interviews.
Usually described as "expected to put on quite a show".
Effects: a large turnout of novice comet hunters and a modest percentage of the general public is disappointed. Children irritated that their parents dragged them out for nothing. Adults feel a bit like a sucker for believing this was going to be worth seeing.

K5 - Comet widely promoted in the popular press for many months in advance of the appearance. Terms used like "Comet of the Century", "visible in daylight", etc. Used and overused as a marketing tool.
Effects: a significant percentage of the general public disappointed. Some children decide that science really isn't as fun as they thought. Adults refine their cynicism and downgrade their opinion of astronomy. Comet Kohoutek is the reference for this as a solid K5.

If a comet actually becomes visible to the naked eye by the average viewer, it is disqualified from the Kohoutek scale.
In that case, see the Halley scale of cometary mediocrity.

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