Look Up & See “The Comet of the Century”

Comet ISON

Thanks to the Huffington Post for this beautiful graphic. You can also read an excellent article on “How to Find ISON, the Comet of the Century” at Mashable.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day for Feb. 4th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 February 4
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Comet Garradd and M92
Image Credit & Copyright: Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST) 

Explanation: Sweeping slowly through the constellation Hercules, Comet Garradd (C2009/P1) passed with about 0.5 degrees of globular star cluster M92 on February 3. Captured here in its latest Messier moment, the steady performer remains just below naked-eye visibility with a central coma comparable in brightness to the dense, well-known star cluster. The rich telescopic view from New Mexico’s, early morning skies, also features Garradd’s broad fan shaped dust tail and a much narrower ion tail that extends up and beyond the right edge of the frame. Pushed out by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit while the ion tail, blown by the solar wind, streams away from the comet in the direction opposite the Sun. Of course, M92 is over 25,000 light-years away. Comet Garradd is 12.5 light-minutes from planet Earth, arcing above the ecliptic plane.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for November 3rd

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Tails of Comet Garradd
Image Credit & Copyright: Gregg Ruppel 

 

Explanation: A good target for binoculars and small telescopes, Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) now shines in planet Earth’s evening skies, a steady performer but just below naked-eye visibility. Telescopic images like this composite from October 15 can find the comet with a lovely green coma, sporting multiple tails, and lingering against a background of faint stars. The field of view spans over 1 degree or about 2 full moons within the southern boundaries of the constellation Hercules. Now around 16 light minutes (2 astronomical units) away, P1 Garradd is an intrinsically large comet, but will never make a very close approach to Earth or the Sun while sweeping through the inner solar system. As a result, the comet will likely stay a sight for telescopic eyes only, moving slowly through the sky and remaining in Hercules during the coming months.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Sept. 9th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 September 9

Comet Garradd and the Coat Hanger
Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Explanation: Sweeping through planet Earth’s night sky, last weekend Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) visited this lovely star field along the Milky Way in the constellation Vulpecula. Suggestively oriented, the colorful skyscape features stars in the asterism known as the Coat Hanger with the comet’s tail pointing toward the southeast. Also known as Al Sufi’s Cluster, the Coat Hanger itself is likely just a chance alignment and not a cluster of related stars. But compact open star cluster NGC 6802 does grace the field of view just right of the Coat Hanger, near the edge of the frame. Below naked eye visibility but approaching 7th magnitude in brightness, Comet Garradd has been a good target for binoculars and small telescopes. Still, bright moonlit skies this week will make the comet harder to spot.