Two Comets – 29P Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 & C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring

Here are images of two comets taken by James Abbott. Both were taken on the night of the 19th/20th February in relatively poor observing conditions with a lot of haze, using a 0.3m f4 newtonian telescope with an ATIK 16IC CCD camera at prime focus. Both frames are 14′ x 11′.

These two comets are both quite distant from the Sun yet are currently showing some activity.

The image of 29P Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 is comprised of ten 30 seconds frames (imaging was started at 2349GMT on the 19th.) Visually 29P is currently has an apparent magnitude of +10.1, one of its brightest outbursts. It is currently 485 million miles from Earth – it always stays beyond Jupiter’s orbit and has a massive nucleus about 50km in diameter which produces these unpredictable outbursts.

Comet 29P Schwassmann-Wachmann 1

The nucleus is the solid part at the centre of a comet, composed of rock, dust, and frozen gases – which why they are sometimes known as a “dirty snowball”. When heated up by the Sun, that frozen material sublimates giving the gassy layer around the comet called the coma.

The C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring image is also made from ten 30 seconds added frames (Start time was 0027GMT on the 20th.) Visually Q3 is fading and is at magnitude of  +11.5, but is still showing a significant tail on images. It is currently 207 million miles from the Earth and receding. It never came closer than 2AU to the Sun and is on a hyperbolic orbit which will take it out of the Solar System.

Comet C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring

Images & information: James Abbott


Posted on 21 February, 2010, in Astronomy News, astrophotography, Popular Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Two Comets – 29P Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 & C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring.

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