Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin – A Twist In The Tail

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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When Chi-Sheng Lin of Taiwan’s Institute of Astronomy captured three images on July 11, 2007 with something strange in them, it was first believed he’d picked up just another asteroid. But, by July 17 astronomers in Table Mountain Observatory, California were noticing a coma 2-3″ across, with a bright central core. That’s not an asteroid… That’s a comet! And now it’s a comet that’s doing something very strange…

By the end of 2008, Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin had steadily began to brighten and now is within easy reach of binoculars for all observers. How bright is it? At last estimate it is between magnitude 6 and 7. That means just a little too faint to be seen unaided, but bright enough to be spotted easily with just the slightest of visual aids. Our own Nancy A. did an article on this not long ago!

But there’s something going on with N3 Lulin, right now… Something very different. There’s a twist in the tail! Check this out…

Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin (negative luminance) - J. Brimacombe

Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin (negative luminance) - J. Brimacombe


While imaging N3 Lulin for UT Readers, Dr. Joe Brimacombe used a negative luminance frame to take a closer look at what’s going on and discovered something quite out of the ordinary. First off, you’ll notice an anti-tail – quite rare in itself – but if you take a look about halfway down the ion/dust tail, you’ll see a very definite twist in the structure. It it rotating? Exactly what’s causing it? Torsional stress? Is it possible that the kink in the tail is an instability resulting from currents flowing along the tail axis? Right now there’s absolutely no information available about what’s going on in the tail – because what you’re seeing is perhaps one of the most current pictures of the comet that can be found!

Chart Courtesy Heaven's Above

Chart Courtesy Heaven's Above

If you’re interested in viewing Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin for yourself and would like some help locating it, there’s a wonderful resource that’s easy to use. Just go to Chris Peet’s Heaven’s Above website and make use of the tools there. It will give you easy to follow charts and all you need is just a pair of binoculars to spot this comet for yourself. Don’t sit inside… Do it!

My sincere thanks to Dr. Joseph Brimacombe of Northern Galactic for not only his superb imaging – but his sublime sense of curiosity which caught this anomaly!


23 Responses

  1. robby says:

    The solar wind does strange things- I wonder what the maximum magnitude will be,still, an interesting article.

  2. Dark Gnat says:

    A rotating body with a very tilted axis (i.e.Uranus) is probably the most feasible explanation. Most of the dust may be coming from one spot, which would produce a spiral trail of dust as the comet rotates.

  3. Timmy says:

    If it gets bright enough, I bet you this comet will either become an alien spaceship or will destroy the earth.

    The faint ones never seem to reach this status, despite dozens of them zinging past earth all the time.

  4. Mork of the Twisted Tail Society says:

    I am the hand of God whom put me on this earth to Shepard his children back to him. We have built a commune in the “O” of the Hollywood sign and on July 16th of this year, we will all go there, each 50 dozen hotdogs each and 10 gallons of water, die, and will be taken to see God via an escalator that is hidden behind this comet.

    The twist in the tail is from a malfunction that occurred in the escalator, but regardless, all of the Children of God must follow me or perish in the aftermath that will be Earth. Also, free cookies for your kids, so bring the family!

  5. Alejandro says:

    Amazing!
    the sky ever give us amazing surprises …that’s good

  6. Bill Davis says:

    It’s the spiraling of charged particles forming a field-aligned (Birkeland) current, as anyone who is familiar with plasma universe tenets will recognize.

  7. Duncan Lunan says:

    This effect was very prominent in the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle (the great comet of 1863), which had seven or eight jets coming off from its nucleus. There are naked-eye and telescopic views in my article ‘Keep Watching the Skies’ (analog, October 1994).

  8. fred houpt says:

    Mainstream astonomers still have their heads stuck in the tar sands. The answer to the puzzle of this and many other comets and meteors is that you are witnessing an electrical plasma event. The streaming tail shows clearly knotted “birkeland” currents. The comet is highly electrically charged and displays ALL of the predicted discharges that plasma physics reproduces on a small scale in the lab. Mainstream astronomy will persue their foolish models until they like the dino’s fade away.

  9. robby says:

    Bill Davis
    fred houpt
    Thank you very much for your posts to this feed-it gave me a much great understanding why many comet tails are quite unique in appearance. As I am a serious amature astronomer who retired as a Network Administration 2 years ago at age 55- I had no degree in Science,Math,Enginering-and keep running into articles about ‘solar winds’, it was curious to me for years how ‘knots’ or ‘jets’ can occur within relatively short distances of comets tails- as I think about it now, if the ‘solar wind’ is capable of such turbulence as not proberly described by mainstream astronomers, our atmosphere would have probably been ‘blown ‘ away’ long ago. Again, thank you for your posts

  10. awesome job to Fred and Bill! 😀

  11. Peter says:

    Oh dear, are we to be subjected to propaganda with every article?
    I agree with a couple of submitters that it is simply a result of a spinning comet, which it is. The kink would be larger as it gets farther from the centre. No need for a new way to see the universe. Robby, if you were a Network Administrator for years, then don’t you think you’d know what your job was called? (Apologies in advance if you don’t normally speak English)

  12. Peter says:

    Notice that the kinks repeat at perfect intervals in the main tail? Spinning would do that. All astronomical objects spin so please, do us a favour and go with the scientific principal that the easiest answer is probably the correct one.

  13. robby says:

    Peter-lol-typo-I am far too lazy to check my spelling-it is Network Administrator-Security Software Unit. Since I got an understanding
    from Fred and Bill, more spinning or effusions/melting of the comets ice would merely do a gradual brightening/ dimming as our Sun is relatively constant per the solar wind., although it does have its fits. I am not a pro at science/engineering/astronomy-just a avid amature astronomer retired and enjoying my boyhood dream with my 14″ S-C scope.
    Perhaps after the sun has run its course of hydrogen/helium fusion and gets to the next stage of helium/caron fusion will the sun have visious turbulence causing our sun to bloat to a red giant-but-that is another story if the human race is still around which I doubt-even 1 million years from now, I don’t have any ideas if the human race will exist..

  14. robby says:

    peter-whoops= I should have added to the
    ‘gradual brightening/ dimming’ —-the comet tail. Shows you my laziness of re-reading before I post lol

  15. robby says:

    peter- I went to Australia in January07 to see the southern skys, a boyhood dream.I knew about Comet McNaught and thought perhaps it will be like Hale-Bopp, however, I got shocked when I saw it late Jan07, the comet and the tail was awesome!!! The tail, with its gradual brightening and dimming throught the entire visible length put Hale-Bopp to shame! But as I understood, it was a much smaller comet than Hale-Bopp.
    I wonder how brilliant Hale-Bopp would have been if it passed at the same distance of
    Comet Hyakutake or Comet McNaught.
    More great comets will appear when they appear!!!

  16. robby says:

    Peter, if you want to see my reaction to propaganda, it would do you well to see all my posts and reactions in the http://www.universetoday.com/2009/01/28/global-warming-may-be-irreversible/ feed.
    We have enough environmental problems affecting people now,making them sick or dying. The organization, should they get more funds,which means more power which requires more fund which increases power and will be in an empire building state for a report I deemed very questionable and will demand much limited funds we need for issues that can be seen , smelled,and deadly.. I hate to be on a low-grade war state about this, but that feed made my blood boil.

  17. OilIsMastery says:

    How many times do mainstream scientists have to see a Birkeland current before they stop being surprised?”

  18. robby says:

    robby Says:” Your comment is awaiting moderation” this appears at my Feb2,8:30pm post this feed. Lol- My, I hope because I am quite outspoken of this so-call ‘Global Warming Organization’ I call questionable with questionable results, I will not have a couple of ‘Gentlemen” knocking on my door to persuade me to ‘study’ the results more carefully-I’m too old to have brass knuckles for lunch ROTFLMAO lol. To business,
    OllisMastery- yours and Fred and Bill explanation answers and explains to me how a comet tail, especially looking at the brilliant Comet McNaught , can keep certain areas of the tail much brighter for long distances from the ‘head’ right next to the much dimmer sections of the same tail while again I saw what appeared to be a brigtening about 25 degrees from the head of the comet a brightening narrow section for about 10 degrees, this lasted for a few hours.I just keep on running into the phrase ‘solar wind’. IF the solar wind was the only cause whether or not the comet was lossing much ice for serveral hours then greatly lower its losses for serveral hours, the comet tail would be there but with a gradual brightening or gradual dimming depending on the distance from the nucleus-there would be no brilliant ‘lanes’ next to dim regions then more brilliant lanes 10-40 degrees from the nucleus for about 10 degree or so.

  19. andy says:

    cool pic. i like the anti-tail, too. plus, it’s been reported (here I think) going counter orbit to the planets which is cool. for all the birkeland current enthusiasts, where can a person go to see what the x-ray signature looks like for the tail? even cooler, where can a person go to get a good discussion about anti-tails and whether there is some type of couple of this anti-tail to what looks like a birkeland current tail (x-ray production up, down, periodic, etc., etc. . this is a very cool comet with a whole lot going on. thanks mucho much for the really cool pic.

  20. robby says:

    andy- I thought perhaps you would know about Yahoo Astronomy groups, there are various groups ranging from the novice to the astrophysics forums. In the past few years I’ve seen x-ray signatures for other comets from space.com, hubblesite.org . There are many forums available. I’m on the yahoo starrynight group but it is mostly for telescopes, recent discoveries or new or old astronomical events, software and the forums can be general to quite advanced astronomcal discussions. Again, there are many groups and forums out there per your special interests.. Many of the groups, to keep out the flakes, will asked why you want to join, tell them why and your real reason and you can be accepted. As you can read on some of the posts on some of the feeds of this site, there are peeps who has no business being here, but can’t be stopped. I hope this helped you a little bit.
    .

  21. ( . )( . ) says:

    my dick is bigger than that thing

  22. Bill Davis says:

    I appreciate the comments. Spinning is a plausible conjecture. There is, however, enough evidence in other forms to have convinced me…a mainstream “believer” for most of my 50 years…that the activity of comets is electric/plasma. Such as…the activity of comets/asteroids very far from the sun; their peculiar interaction with the solar wind close in, such as the complete temporary “tearing” of the tail from the comet; the sudden disintegration of comets, but not at closest approach to the sun when the mechanical stresses would be greatest; the collimated antitail; the correspondence of the surfaces of comets with the appearance of electic discharge machining; the entirely anomalous – from the conventional view – behaviour of comet Holmes in 07-08. The latter is a succinct demonstration of the explosion and repair of a plasma double layer (the coma) as it went from elliptical to jellyfish appearance and then to a perfect sphere many times the diamater of the sun, and whose appearance and retention cannot be attributed to the tiny gravity of the nucleus. From a conventional heating point of view there is no plausible explanation for Holmes’ behavior.

  23. robbi says:

    I’ve learned much about why comets appearance as so unique. I am now certain of activities of comets as a electrical/plasma
    phenomena. After seeing the activity of awesome Comet McNaught in Jan2007, and the relatively quick changes that were happening, I was wondering why there was no reports of higher aurora activites. I was stumped as thinking about conventional thinking of the ‘solar wind’ did not make sense but then I forgot about it. Comet Holmes IMHO collided with a ‘chip’ from a
    asteroid/comet and such violent activity caused an incredible amount of electrical/plasma activity the brilliance was of
    intensity that the Suns’ solar wind at that distance was incapable of doing alone.
    I’ve learned much about how electric/plasma
    activity can have on comets and other objects I have to question some conventional thinking of Astronomy, but still stick to the point where no-advanced living life-forms can leave the protective ‘ cocoon ‘ heliosphere of their home main sequence G or K stars,but my thinking may be counter to ‘conventional
    Astronomer’ thinking humans can leave the confines of their stars heliosphere.

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