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Astrophotographers were out in full force this weekend to try and capture the bonanza of comets now visible in the early morning skies! You’ll need a good-sized telescope to see these comets for yourself, however, but with the Moon now waning means darker skies and better observing conditions. Above is an absolutely gorgeous image of Comet ISON taken by Damian Peach. See below for more images of not only Comet ISON, but also Comet Encke, Comet Lovejoy and Comet LINEAR — now in outburst.
In fact, one of our “regular” contributors, John Chumack, captured all four comets in one morning, on Saturday October 26!
Here’s what John said about his Comet ISON image: “The tail extends off the frame it is at least 20 arc minutes long now and the coma is still around 3-4 arc minutes in diameter. The comet is looking good at about 12th magnitude and continues to slowly brighten, just 30 more days to perihelion — closest point to the Sun. Hopefully it puts on a good show for all of December too!”
And Comet Linear 2012 X1 was at 14th magnitude, but now in outburst, John said, “it is over 100-fold brighter at 8th magnitude and expanding! It was low on the horizon at dawn, and tough to get. It just cleared the trees at 7:07am in bright dawn light! I managed a couple of quick shots before my CCD was flooded completely with light!”
Of Comet Lovejoy, John said, “I found it has developed a faint long tail…it is at least 12 arc minutes in length and the comet’s coma is now around 6 arc minutes in diameter. I already notified Terry Lovejoy in Australia and he was excited to hear his comet has developed a new tail!”
Here’s a timelapse video from John of Comet Lovejoy moving through the constellation of Canus Minor:
Here’s a view from a smaller telescope from Tom Wildoner, to give a better idea of what “most of us” would see with our humbler telescopes!
Even NASA astronomers were out trying to take images of these comets. Here’s an image taken from NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center:
NASA explains the image:
In the early morning of Oct. 25 (6:45 a.m. EDT), NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., used a 14″ telescope to capture this image of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), which is brightening as it approaches the sun. The comet shines with a faint green color just to the left of center. The diagonal streak right of center was caused by the Italian SkyMed-2 satellite passing though the field of view. At magnitude 8.5, the comet is still too faint for the unaided eye or small binoculars, but it’s an easy target in a small telescope.
At this time of this image, ISON was located in the constellation of Leo the Lion, some 132 million miles from Earth and heading in toward the sun at 87,900 miles per hour.
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