Posts tagged comet

Posted 1 year ago

Comet of the North 
Image Credit & CopyrightP-M Hedén (Clear SkiesTWAN)

Explanation: It looks like a double comet, but Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) is just offering skygazers a Messier moment. Outward bound and fading in this starry scene, the well-photographed comet is remarkably similar in brightness to M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Tracking through northern skies just below the galaxy, the comet was captured as local midnight approached on April 3. Both comet and galaxy were visible to the eye and are immersed in the faint glow of northern lights. Our own Milky Way galaxy arcs over the snowy field near Tänndalen, Sweden. Double star cluster h and chi Persei can be spotted along the Milky Way’s arc high above the comet/galaxy pair. Follow the arc to bright Deneb, alpha star of the constellation Cygnus, at the right edge of the frame.

Posted 1 year ago

Comet PANSTARRS and the Andromeda Galaxy 
Image Credit & Copyright: Pavel Smilyk

Explanation: Currently, comet PANSTARRS is passing nearly in front of the galaxy Andromeda. Coincidentally, both comet and galaxyappear now to be just about the same angular size. In physical size, even though Comet PANSTARRS is currently the largest object in theSolar System with a tail spanning about 15 times the diameter of the Sun, it is still about 70 billion times smaller than the Andromeda galaxy(M31). The above image was captured on March 30, near SyktyvkarRussia. As C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) on the lower left recedesfrom the Sun and dims, it is returning to the northerly direction whence it came. When the comet will return is currently unknown, althoughhumans may have merged with computers by then.

Posted 1 year ago

The Broad Tail of PanSTARRS 
Image Credit & CopyrightLorenzo Comolli - Model Overlay: Marco Fulle (INAF)

Explanation: For northern hemisphere skygazers, fading Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) still hangs above the western horzion, after sunset but before moonrise in the coming days. Its perspective from planet Earth continues to reveal the comet’s broad dust tail. This long exposure tracking the comet, made on March 21, has been enhanced to show remarkable, subtle striations in PanSTARRS’ tail. Place your cursor over the image (or click here) to show an overlay of the dust tail with a model network of synchrones and syndynes. Synchrones (long dashed lines) trace the location of dust grains released from the comet nucleus at the same time and with zero velocity. The successive synchrone lines shown are separated by 1 day and start at the bottom, 10 days before the comet’s March 10 perihelion passage. Syndynes (solid lines) show the location of dust grains of the same size, also released with zero velocity. Dust grains 1 micron wide lie along the upper syndyne. The grain width increases counterclockwise to 500 micron wide grains along the syndyne nearly parallel to the comet’s orbit (short dashed line through the nucleus location). In the model, forces acting on the dust grains were assumed to be gravity and the pressure of sunlight. The periodic striations in PanSTARRS’ tail seem to closely follow the model synchrone lines.

Posted 1 year ago

Waterfalls, Auroras, Comet: Iceland 
Image Credit & Copyright: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees)

Explanation: If not distracted by the picturesque landscape, waterfalls, stars, and auroras, you might be able to find Comet PANSTARRS. The above image, capturing multiple terrestrial and celestial wonders in a single shot, was taken last week in southwest Iceland. The popular Gullfoss waterfallsare pictured under brilliant auroras that followed a M1-class solar flare and powerful Coronal Mass Ejection two days earlier. Give up on locating the comet? Comet PANSTARRS is faintly visible as a light blip just above the horizon toward the left of the above image. The comet remains moredirectly visible to northern observers with binoculars looking toward the western sky just after sunset.

Posted 1 year ago

Comet Castle 
Image Credit & CopyrightStefan Seip (TWAN)

Explanation: The broad dust tail of Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) has become a familiar sight for many northern hemisphere comet watchers, as the comet fades but rises higher above the western horizon after sunset. This view of the popular comet may seem a little fantastic, though. Sweeping away from the Sun and trailing behind the comet’s orbit, the curving dust tail also seems to stream away from a shining mountaintop castle. Comet Castle might be an appropriate name in this scene, but its traditional name is Castle Hohenzollern. Taken on March 15 with an extreme telephoto lens, the Comet Castle image was captured in exceptionally clear skies about 80 kilometers away from Stuttgart, Germany.

Posted 1 year ago

Comet PANSTARRS Just After Sunset 
Image Credit & Copyright: Chris Cook

Explanation: Have you seen the comet? As Comet PANSTARRS fades, careful observers — even with unaided eyes — should still be able to find the shedding ice ball on the western horizon just after sunset. Pictured above, Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) was pointed out from a hilltop last week on First Encounter Beach in MassachusettsUSA. The comet was discovered by — and is named for — the Pan-STARRS astronomical sky survey that discovered it. As the comet now recedes from both the Earth and the Sun, it will remain visible further into the night, although binoculars or a small telescope will soon to be needed to find it.

Posted 1 year ago

PanSTARRS from France 
Image Credit & CopyrightJean-Luc Dauvergne

Explanation: Still looking for that comet? Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) naked-eye appearance in the northern hemisphere is described by successful comet spotters as a dim star with a faint tail. If you want to catch it the next few days could be your best bet.Start looking low and almost due west about 45 minutes after sunset. Of course, clear skies and a pair of binoculars should help a lot. Sky photographer Jean-Luc Dauvergne found suitable weather and western horizon for this comet and crescent Moon portrait after a road trip on March 13. Seeing PanSTARRS for the first time, he recorded the beautiful twilight scene with a telephoto lens nearhistorical Alesia in France.

Posted 1 year ago

CME, Comet and Planet Earth 
Image Credit: NRL / SECCHI / STEREO / NASA 
Processing - Karl Battams (NRL and @SungrazerComets)

Explanation: After appearing in a popular photo opportunity with a young crescent Moon near sunset, naked-eye Comet PanSTARRScontinues to rise in northern hemisphere skies. But this remarkable interplanetary perspective from March 13, finds the comet posing with our fair planet itself - as seen from the STEREO Behind spacecraft. Following in Earth’s orbit, the spacecraft is nearly opposite the Sun and looks back toward the comet and Earth, with the Sun just off the left side of the frame. At the left an enormous coronal mass ejection (CME) is erupting from a solar active region. Of course, CME, comet, and planet Earth are all at different distances from the spacecraft. (The comet is closest.) The processed digital image is the difference between two consecutive frames from the spacecraft’s SECCHI Heliospheric Imager, causing the strong shadowing effect for objects that move between frames. Objects that are too bright create the sharp vertical lines. The processing reveals complicated feather-like structures in Comet PanSTARRS’s extensive dust tail.

Posted 1 year ago

Clouds, Comet and Crescent Moon 
Image Credit & CopyrightBabak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Explanation: In silhouette against the colorful evening twilight, clouds part for this much anticipated magic moment. The scene captures naked-eye Comet PanSTARRS peeking into northern hemisphere skies on March 12. The comet stands over the western horizon after sunset, joined by the thin, flattened crescent of a day old Moon. Posing for its own beauty shot, the subtly lit dome of the 4.2 meter William Herschel Telescope is perched above cloud banks on the Canary Island of La Palma. While PanSTARRS has not quite developed into the spectacular comet once hoped for, it is still growing easier to see in the north. In coming days it will steadily climb north, farther from the Sun into darker western evening skies.

Posted 1 year ago

PanSTARRS over Parkes 
Image Credit & CopyrightJohn Sarkissian (CSIRO Parkes Observatory)

Explanation: Sweeping quickly through southern skies on March 5, Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) follows the Sun toward the western horizon in this twilight scene. In the foreground is Australia’s CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope, a 64 meter wide steerable dish that is no stranger to the space age exploration of comets. In March of 1986 the Parkes dish tracked ESA’s Giotto spacecraft as it flew by Comet Halley and received the first ever closeup images of Halley’s nucleus. At naked-eye visibility, Comet PanSTARRS made its closest approach to planet Earth on March 5. Its closest approach to the Sun will be on March 10. Heading north, PanSTARRS now begins a much anticipated appearance low in the northern hemisphere’s western skies after sunset. On March 12, look for the comethugging the western horizon near a young crescent Moon.