Weekend Comet Bonanza!

by Nancy Atkinson on October 28, 2013

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Color image of Comet ISON on October 27, 2013. Credit and copyright: Damian Peach.

Color image of Comet ISON on October 27, 2013. Credit and copyright: Damian Peach.

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!

Four comets captured in one morning! Clockwise from top left: Comet ISON 2012 S1; Lovejoy C/2103 R1;, 2P ENCKE, Linear 2012 X1. Credit and copyright: John Chumack/Galactic Images.

Four comets captured in one morning! Clockwise from top left: Comet ISON 2012 S1; Lovejoy C/2103 R1;, 2P ENCKE, Linear 2012 X1. Credit and copyright: John Chumack/Galactic Images.

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!

The view of Mars and Comet ISON on the morning of October 28, 2013. taken using a 75mm lens, 30 seconds at ISO 800. Look for the small blur inside the yellow circle. Credit and copyright: Tom Wildoner.

The view of Mars and Comet ISON on the morning of October 28, 2013. taken using a 75mm lens, 30 seconds at ISO 800. Look for the small blur inside the yellow circle. Credit and copyright: Tom Wildoner.

Comet 2012 1X (LINEAR) on October 28, 2013 following its recent outburst. Obtained under bright twilight, low altitude and moonlight! Credit and copyright: Damian Peach.

Comet 2012 1X (LINEAR) on October 28, 2013 following its recent outburst. Obtained under bright twilight, low altitude and moonlight! Credit and copyright: Damian Peach.

Comet ISON Nucleus on October 26, 2013 at 9:43 - 10:27 U.T. Taken with QHY8 CCD & Homemade 16" Newtonian telescope. A total of 40 minutes of exposure (20 x 120 second exposures). Credit and copyright: John Chumack/Galactic Images.

Comet ISON Nucleus on October 26, 2013 at 9:43 – 10:27 U.T. Taken with QHY8 CCD & Homemade 16″ Newtonian telescope. A total of 40 minutes of exposure (20 x 120 second exposures). Credit and copyright: John Chumack/Galactic Images.

Even NASA astronomers were out trying to take images of these comets. Here’s an image taken from NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center:

Comet ISON on October 25, 2013, taken with a 14 inch telescope at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery

Comet ISON on October 25, 2013, taken with a 14 inch telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery

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.

If you want to try and see some of these comets for yourself, see our recent “explainers” of how to see Comet 2012 1X LINEAR, Comet 2P (Encke), Comet 2011 W3 (Lovejoy), and the big one, Comet ISON.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Grimbold October 28, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Oh hey, I see Disqus is back on this site. Nice.

SupernovaElite October 29, 2013 at 12:08 AM

Finally. Google+ or facebook makes me want to go on a killing spree… Hopefully all the great commenters havent left.

zkank October 29, 2013 at 11:39 AM

High fives, all around!

Olaf2 October 29, 2013 at 5:24 PM

They might not be aware that they can logon again.
I didn’t.

DarkGnat October 29, 2013 at 5:48 PM

I’m glad. Google+ = PITA.

Aqua4U October 29, 2013 at 10:59 PM

I guess I’m not entirely ‘with it’ as far as iNet acronyms are concerned, so I Googled PITA and read that it means “Pain In The Arse”.. am sympatico with your comment!

Aqua4U October 29, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Hmm.. A message came up when I tried to log in a couple days ago, asking if I wanted to ‘co-ordinate’ my Google account with my Disqus account. I saw no harm in that as I’d previously signed up with Disgus a while back. THEN when I tried to use my Google account, I could only log in thru Disqus. What’s up wit dat? Has Google partnered or purchased Disqus? I contacted Disqus and they said, “Alles goot.. rock on!” I’ll hammer away at it some more.. but wonder what’s happened to my Google account??

Darrell Heath October 29, 2013 at 2:42 AM

Is the NASA estimate its apparent or absolute magnitude?

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Aqua4U October 29, 2013 at 11:03 PM

Am planning to be out there with my 4″, hoping my scope is big enough to get my first glimpse of C. ISON… That ‘bad actor’ Ms. Selena is finally moving out of the picture, at last!

ITSRUF October 30, 2013 at 12:33 AM

Yaaa!!! No more Google and their spying!!

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