Comet Lulin Approaches M44 and Eskimo Nebula


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into space and have a look at solar system objects in aspect? While we can view interesting and inspiring events like Comet Lulin’s recent conjunction with Saturn, what we can’t quite get our brains to wrap around it how it would appear in dimension. Thanks to some “magic” by Jukka Metsavainio and some of his own outstanding astrophotography – now we can…

Like all our our “stereo” image produced for UT by Jukka Metsavainio, two versions are presented here. The one above is parallel vision – where you relax your eyes and when you are a certain distance from the monitor screen the two images will merge into one to produce a 3D version. The second – which appears below – is crossed vision. This is for those who have better success crossing their eyes to form a third, central image where the dimensional effect occurs. In this case, Jukka had the opportunity to photograph Comet Lulin during its recent conjuntion with Saturn and he was willing to share the view in a visualization of how the pair would have appeared in binoviewers – or if you were able to see them with both eyes from space! Ready to get crossed? Then let’s go….

Comet Lulin and Saturn in Cross Vision by Jukka Metsavainio
Comet Lulin and Saturn in Cross Vision by Jukka Metsavainio

After having just viewed Comet Lulin a few hours before seeing this image, I knew I just had to share. Thanks to the comet’s unique position along our ecliptic plane, the pleasure of catching it in the eyepiece with other telescopic objects isn’t over yet. For observers in the United States, on March 6, this Thursday evening, Comet Lulin will pass 2 degrees south of the Beehive Star Cluster, M44. On Saturday, March 14, Lulin will pass only 15 arc minutes (half the moonโ€™s apparent diameter) away from the Eskimo Nebula, NGC 2392. But don’t think you have to live in the US to see it!

As with all conjunction events, your position and timing on Earth will play an important role on where the comet will appear in relation to the object. For example, for observers in the UK, Lulin may be to M44’s southeast – while the west coast of Canada will see it to the southwest. The same is true of latitude as well – your variation here on Earth will give an equal variation on Comet Lulin’s positon against the celestial sphere. But, don’t go crazy trying to worry about its exact position. Two degrees is a lot of sky and chances are no matter when you view on March 6, you’ll catch it in (or near) the same binocular field as the Beehive.

In the meantime? Enjoy this incredible look at Comet Lulin and Saturn… It’s a tasty treat!

31 Replies to “Comet Lulin Approaches M44 and Eskimo Nebula”

  1. Oh dear Tammy, Why?
    I’m still up all night waiting for those pesky clouds to dissipate!
    God I hate continuous sunny days followed by cloudy nights!
    Nice oic though

  2. ah, my dear dr. crumb… you know darn well if i didn’t tell you it was coming (and the moonlight will interfere) that somebody out there would swear the only observing i knew how to do was from a planetarium program… on the other hand? if i do tell you something is coming – it’s murphy’s astronomy “law” – bound to be cloudy.

    it’s kinda’ like watching a much anticipated meteor shower…. when the time finally gets here AND the skies are clear? all the coffee in the world couldn’t keep me awake…


    sending clear skies luck your way….

  3. stunning picture – I should have thought being comparatively “simple” it’d be easy to see in 3D – but it’s actually the first one in the series I had difficulties with.
    Yet again, it goes to show that I haven’t got the slightest notion of the principle behind the way this works at all, at all…. but it doesn’t matter a bit – as long as you keep them coming, I’ll enjoy them.

  4. Re: Eskimo Nebula. I feel I have to address this issue because It is my duty to. I am a community worker in training, so I have been made aware that the Term “Eskimo” is racist. It is as bad a using the ‘N WORD”. I know this is no one persons fault at this website. It bugs me to think that there is racism in space, the last frontier. I go to school with people who are of Inuit heritage, and I see the pain it causes them when the term is used so carelessly,and ignorantly. I was one who used it as well before I knew error of my ways. So I am not trying signal anyone in particular I just wish someone who could rename it .

    Thank you for your time

    P.S. I love this site with all my heart, It has totally educated me about space which is truly incredible

    Peace And Love

  5. hey, scott? i can understand being sensitive about what might seem like a “racist” tag, but sooner or later in this world we’ve got to draw the line about worrying whether every single thing we say and do might offend someone. we need to celebrate what we are!

    the nebula’s designation is NGC 2392… but don’t you think it’s far more grand to recognize the Inuit culture by referring to it as the “Eskimo”? it would be a perfect opportunity when doing public outreach to demonstrate your care and respect for the Inuits by pointing out that we recognize this and this wonderful culture even had their own constellation names, like “The Polar Bear (Alnitak)” and “The Spirit of a Polar Bear (Taurus)”. there’s an awesome book by John McDonald called “Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore and Legend” that’s a must-read for anyone who teaches the night sky!

    and yep. this one is a little harder to see because of the picture height. i seemed to have better luck when i reduced the image size down and tried it that way.

  6. Tammy: Your direction about celebrating Inuit culture is great in regards to pointing out constellations. But again, I have to equate this name to an awful example. Imagine celebrating African culture by naming a constellation the “N word Nebula”? It’s the same thing. Your advice about just letting things slide is what has kept women oppressed for thousands of years. Up until 80 years ago women were considered stupid and the property of men. We both know that’s B.S. All I am asking for is a little devils advocate to think about the effect of what this name does.

    with all respects Tammy


  7. Nick: your quite clearly racist. This site is made for adults not children. Go home and study humanity before even thinking about looking at the stars.

  8. Tom said:
    “Hey Salacious B. Crumb,
    Sounds like you are a Northwest Astronomer!”
    Same place, wrong hemisphere.
    Thanks for the link.
    Fingers crossed for tonight, though!

  9. OilIsMastery Says:
    “Gravitation is alleged to be an attractive force, yet the tails of comets are being repelled.
    How come comet tails defy gravitation?”
    Yeah. Why is their always a dust tail and an ion tail?
    Got me confused.
    Maybe quintessence – you know the dark matter, the falling economy, alien microbes or even those fairies and pixies in the back garden perhaps?
    Or maybe those like you who gets kicks by bring up BS?

  10. That Cat (Tybalt), who lives here with me, looks like a Maine Coon [can I say that!?], but he’s never been near The Eastern Seaboard, U.S.A, or a raccoon [Procyon lotor – now what’s that naming got to do with stars?]! And Tybalt is a pretty evil name, but he doesn’t care. I’m mindful of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but ‘calling’ doesn’t hurt me” in ALL of this rubbish… but well said, Alphonso, mine too.

  11. C’mon folks, this is a sensitive topic, keep your speak high and lofty, in the stars for example. I follow Tammy here.
    As sensitive I am about racist words, I’m not sure the rest of the world would put the tag ‘Eskimo’ in the same category as the N word. It is still widely used, unaware of racist connotations and I wouldn’t be surprised if it would become accepted – like many names that start out as a smear. I could be wrong of course, no debate intented.
    BTW, Tammy the book’s precise name is “The Arctic Sky: Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore, and Legend” – looks marvelous indeed. Thx.

  12. Can’t go on. Power Nap is in order to rest me tired eyes. Got to see C-Lulin [appear to] approach the Clown [is THAT better?] Nebula, light pollution and industrial smog permitting! Night comes earlier in Grimland, on THE Meridian.

  13. You know, the term christian was originally a slur…it meant little christ. I don’t hear too many followers of Christ complaining about being called christians.

  14. @OillsMastery, check out the Wikipedia entry for comets (subcategory 1.2 ‘coma & tail’) for a great description of both dust and gas tails from comets. The electromagnetic force overwhelms the relatively weak gravitational forces (from the comet & the sun) in this particular case (No ‘Electric Universe’, ‘Plasma Cosmology’ or similar BS required).

  15. Oils,

    Think of leaves. Gravity keeps them on the ground but with enough force from the winds, they can be pushed off the ground and blown away.

  16. The racist “Eskimo” Nebula has been called that as long as I remember. Maybe we can rename it the “Alaska Airlines tail logo” nebula?


  17. “electromagnetic force overwhelms the relatively weak gravitational forces (from the comet & the sun) in this particular case (No ‘Electric Universe’, ‘Plasma Cosmology’ or similar BS required).”

    LOL. Electromagnetic force IS electric universe.

  18. ALEX: You’ve never been insulted before so you ARE very lucky. And hope your OHHH sooo privileged life keeps you protected little fella, your going a big boy someday I am sure of it……

  19. OilIsMastery says;
    “LOL. Electromagnetic force IS electric universe.”
    “LMAO. Gravitational force IS a heavy universe”

    Gravity makes the apple fall on your head, while it is electromagnetic forces which makes it hurt.
    In your case it was probably a ton of bricks!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ LMAO(TIH)
    Now I do see how really stupid you are?

  20. My cudo’s to Jukka Metsavainio ! What a great image… I am grateful AND inspired by your efforts. Keep up the good work! (I hope to see more from you)

    Now… What are you people raving about? The comments above concerning ‘The Eskimo Nebula’ do not follow the above image of Comet Lulin. I had presumed after reading the FAQ’s that comments were to be reserved for the image and story posted? Whassup wit dat?

  21. P.S. I live in Northern Californicator. We have been mostly clouded out and not able to see Comet Lulin. Then, three nights ago, we got a clearing. I took my little 4″ scope out to my driveway and saw finally saw Comet Lulin! YIPPEE! This is the 41st comet I’ve observed. During my obervations I saw both the dust tail and the ion tail without a filter.

  22. The recent approach of comet Lulin reminds the collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy with the Jupiter in July 1994. As Jupiter has several moons, a comet can collide with a moon. But some of them are forward orbiting and some in the opposite, so predicting the collision is bit difficult. The said difficulty takes us to a global n chronic problem in the teaching / learning of Circular Motion. Interested readers can see my Letter in Physics Education, a bimonthly from UK, November 1995, p. 327 or contact me on +91-020-65100495 or my cellphone: 9922467861or write me on “Prerana Apts / A-40 / Kasturba Society / Dighi Post / Pune / MH / 411015 / INDIA

  23. The term “Eskimo” is only a pejorative in Greenland and Canada, where the majority of circumpolar natives are Inuit. In Alaska and Siberia, the natives are not only Inuit but also Yupik and Aleut. To call a Yupik an Inuit is akin to calling a Mexican a Puerto Rican.

    Perhaps the term fell out of favor because of the meaning of the word as being “eaters of raw meat” in Cree, a rival Native American tribe. Since the Cree saw that practice as barbarian, it was said with disdain. The French voyageurs most likely did not pick up on that, but used the word “Esquimeaux.”

    So, a circumpolar native in Canada may be insulted because it would be politically correct to be so. A Yupik in Alaska is not so politically inclined to become a “professional victim.” I’m sure he rather enjoys having a nebula named after his Peoples.

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