rcking: (telescope1)
[personal profile] rcking
(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.

Date: 2013-03-16 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neowolf2.livejournal.com
I wasn't impressed by comet Pan-STARRS. I hope the one in november doesn't also disappoint.

Date: 2013-03-16 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] porsupah.livejournal.com
Wait, what? There's supposed to be a sky above the cloud layer?

That's crazy talk!

Date: 2013-03-17 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
"expected to put on quite a show"

Hahaha-- see this so often! Nice scale, by the way.

Date: 2013-03-17 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cal-foxx.livejournal.com
I remember barely seeing Comet Kohoutek back in 1973, and have only seen one other since then, that being Halley's the last time is came around. I didn't even know about this current comet you are talking about until a couple days ago, but I never get a chance to observe the sky anymore anyway.

Date: 2013-03-17 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eric-hinkle.livejournal.com
So Kohoutek was a disappointment back in the day? Heh, and it got bragged up so much that even Marvel Comics included references to its (expected) sky-spanning glory!

Date: 2013-03-17 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neowolf2.livejournal.com
Wasn't there a pretty good one right after Kohoutek that people mostly ignored, because of the lingering bleh? West, I think it was.

I also remember a really nice one in the morning sky when I was a kid. Don't remember its name, though.

Date: 2013-03-17 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zorro456.livejournal.com
You are probably talking about Comet West in 1976.

Date: 2013-03-17 05:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maxgoof.livejournal.com
I still recall being awoken by my father at 3AM, and told to accompany him outside, told to look up and tell him what I saw.

It was a comet. Very clearly visible to the naked eye. I had been an avid astronomer for several years. I had read nothing in advance of this comet. Yet, suddenly, there it was, complete with vaporous tail, which shifted, even as you watched.

I wonder if there is a scale for surprise comets.

Date: 2013-03-17 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zorro456.livejournal.com
I saw Kohoutek and it was a decent comet, No Hale Bopp though.

Date: 2013-03-18 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dakhun.livejournal.com
I found PanSTARRS easier to spot last night than the time before, because even though it was a littler fainter, it was a little higher in the sky so I could follow it longer and thus see it in a darker sky.
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