High Resolution Views of Comet McNaught’s Nucleus

Central Comet McNaught. Image credit: ESOComet McNaught, one of the brightest comets in last few decades recently swept past the Sun, providing a beautiful show. Unfortunately, the comet was so low to the horizon that only viewers in the Southern hemisphere were able to see its brightest point.

This low horizon view was a problem for Earth-based observatories as well. Many aren’t able to look down towards the horizon, which is murky anyway from atmospheric turbulence.

The European Southern Observatory’s New Technology Telescope does have the ability to point down to the horizon, and was able to deliver this image of Comet McNaught’s nucleus.

The photograph shows three spiral jets of material are pouring off the comet as it rotates. Astronomers were able to analyze the chemicals in these jets and determine which were present in the comet’s atmosphere.

Original Source: ESO News Release