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Comet turns out to be a lesser light

When the comet Ikeya-Zhang was discovered Feb. 1, astronomers thought it might put on a spectacular nighttime show during the next few months. It was brightening as it neared the sun, and some thought Ikeya-Zhang might be the return of a particularly bright comet last recorded in 1532.

Alas, no. Ikeya-Zhang is now thought to be the return of a lesser space traveler last witnessed on Earth in 1661. This is a "come-down of sorts," according to the Web site SPACE.com, because the 1661 comet was a "middle-of-the-road performer."

Nevertheless, the St. Petersburg Astronomy Club is offering a chance _ though not a particularly good one _ to see it.

Between 7:30 and 8:15 p.m. Saturday at the Science Center at 7701 22nd Ave. N, the club will have from 10 to 20 telescopes aimed just above the horizon in the the west-northwest sky. Bring the kids and take a look, said club secretary Dan Bricker.

"I think it would be visible with the naked eye if we did not live in such a populated area," Bricker said. "I don't get excited about comets unless they have a tail, and this one does. But it will be gone by the end of next week."

Although the comet will be visible only until about 8:15, other features of the night sky can be viewed through the club's telescopes until 11 p.m., Bricker said.

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