Thursday, November 28, 2013

Comet ISON at the Sun

Of course, all amateur astronomers are wondering if comet ISON is going to survive it's Thanksgiving pass near the sun.  I've not seen it for about 10 days now as it moved into the morning glow of twilight, but the best views are now on-line from the solar-viewing spacecraft.  Right now, it is spectacular on the SOHO real time images, of which the latest (well, 2am local) is shown at left.  The sun is behind the circular mask in the center, and the thing with a tail is comet ISON.  Click this link to bring you to the latest set of images which might include a disintegrating comet, or something spectacular!  Interestingly, the bright star near the bottom is Antares in Scorpio, just to the right of it is the star cluster Messier 4.  Always weird to observe stars, comets and clusters few degrees from the sun - interesting days we're living in!

EDIT:  Well the comet went behind the sun, as expected, and just as everyone declared it had broken up and that it should Rest In Peace, burnt to a crisp while skimming the suns surface, SOMETHING did come out, seen here to the upper right, where the comet was expected to pass. This shot was taken overnight, about 1am Tucson time.  It is more diffuse than the comet that went in, so it might well be reduced to a rubble pile, but it still sports a tail, so is still a comet of some sort.  Note that the tail does not point nearly away from the sun, so is composed of very heavy dust particles, not light ionic particles that normally make up the tail very near the sun near these environs.  You might recall another recent comet, the current "Comet Of The Century" from a few years back -Comet C/2011 W3 Lovejoy.  It passed the sun under similar circumstances, and being larger than lil' ISON, survived to a great display in the southern hemisphere. I posted about that with a time-lapse movie taken from SOHO images, and is a great companion piece to consider next to this comet.  I'm working on a similar time lapse now, but for the moment, review the Lovejoy clip...

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