On October 19th, a good place to watch Comet Siding Spring will be from Mars. Then, this inbound visitor (C/2013 A1) to the inner solar system, discovered in January 2013 by Robert McNaught at Australia’s Siding Spring Observatory, will pass within 132,000 kilometers of the Red Planet. That’s a near miss, equivalent to just over 1/3 the Earth-Moon distance. Great views of the comet for denizens of planet Earth’s southern hemisphere are possible now, though. This telescopic snapshot from August 29 captured the comet’s whitish coma and arcing dust tail sweeping through southern skies. The fabulous field of view includes, the Small Magellanic Cloud and globular star clusters 47 Tucanae (right) and NGC 362 (upper left). Worried about all those spacecraft in Martian orbit? Streaking dust particles from the comet could pose a danger and controllers plan to position Mars orbiters on the opposite side of the planet during the comet’s close flyby.
Image Credit & Copyright: Jens Hackmann
Lovejoy continues to be an impressive camera comet. Pictured above, Comet C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) was imaged above the windmill in Saint-Michel-l’Observatoire in southern France with a six-second exposure. In the foreground is a field of lavender. Comet Lovejoy should remain available for photo opportunities for northern observers during much of December and during much of the night, although it will be fading as the month progresses and highest in the sky before sunrise. In person, the comet will be best viewed with binoculars. A giant dirty snowball, Comet Lovejoy last visited the inner Solar System about 7,000 years ago, around the time that humans developed the wheel.
NASA APOD 9 December, 2013
This new comet is quite photogenic. Comet Lovejoy, discovered only three months ago, was imaged through ruins of ancient Mörby Castle in Sweden last week sporting a green-glowing coma and tails trailing several degrees. The past few weeks have been an unusually active time for comet watchers as four comets were visible simultaneously with binoculars: ISON, Lovejoy, Encke, and LINEAR. C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) comet is currently visible to the unaided eye from a dark location. As Monday’s new Moon will provide little glare, the next few days provide a good time to see Comet Lovejoy as it reaches its peak brightness. In two and a half weeks, Comet Lovejoy will reach its closest approach to the Sun at a distance just inside the orbital distance of the Earth.
Comet Lovejoy was captured last week passing well in front of spiral galaxy M63. Discovered only three months ago and currently near its maximum brightness, Comet Lovejoy can be seen near the Big Dipper from dark northerly locations before dawn with the unaided eye. An unexpected rival to Comet ISON, C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy), pictured above, is currently sporting a large green coma and a beautifully textured ion tail. Comet Lovejoy is now headed back to the outer Solar System but should remain a good site in binoculars for another few weeks. Conversely, spiral galaxy M63, lies far in the distance and is expected to remain stationary on the sky and hold its relative brightness for at least the next few million years.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, SOHO – Video Editing: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)
After failing to appear for Sun staring spacecraft at perihelion, its harrowing closest approach to the Sun, sungrazing Comet ISON was presumed lost. But ISON surprised observers yesterday as material still traveling along the comet’s trajectory became visible and even developed an extensive fan-shaped dust tail. Edited and processed to HD format, this video (vimeo, youtube) is composed of frames from the SOHO spacecraft’s coronographs. It follows the comet in view of the wide (blue tint) and narrow (red tint) field cameras in the hours both before and after perihelion passage. In both fields, overwhelming sunlight is blocked by a central occulting disk. A white circle indicates the Sun’s positon and scale. With questions to be answered and the tantalizing possibility that a small cometary nucleus has survived in whole or part, surprising comet ISON will be rising before dawn in planet Earth’s skies in the coming days.