I was finally victorious over the clouds yesterday evening and was able to observe C/2006 P1 (McNaught) for the first time. Some friends and I met at a nearby hilltop with a great view of the western horizon a bit before 5:00 p.m. EST. Venus was easily visible to the naked-eye at that time. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing steadily at speeds up to 30 mph, which made for a rather bitter impromptu observing session.
My good friend and observing companion Tony Donnangelo and I scanned the area to the lower right of Venus with binoculars. Tony picked up the comet at 5:18 p.m. (22:18 UT) with his new 10x50 Celestron Ultimas. Shortly thereafter I saw it through my 8x42 Celestron Nobles. We then viewed it through Tony's 15x70 Celestron Skymasters, which were mounted on my Vista binocular guider and Bogen tripod, followed by my 80mm f/5 Orion ShortTube 80 achromat at 15x (26mm Tele Vue Ploessl) and later 50x (8mm Tele Vue Radian).
I was able to see Comet McNaught P1 naked-eye at approximately 5:30 p.m. I wasn't able to pick up Altair until sometime thereafter.
Overall, the 15x70s provided the best view. The very rare shadow feature that seemingly divides the tail was visible. C/2006 P1 (McNaught) took on a ruddy hue as it sank into the sunset, which was yet another fascinating aspect of observing this very bright comet.
I was able to follow the comet through my ST80 until it was only a degree or two above the western horizon. Sometime after 5:50 p.m. it was no longer visible.
It was difficult to estimate Comet McNaught P1's brightness but I would put it somewhere between -2 and -3 magnitude. The coma was quite brilliant.
A finder chart is posted at http://spaceweather.com/images2007/0...ymap_north.gif