Saturday, November 16, 2013

Comet C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy)

Comet Lovejoy is determined not to be outdone by Comet ISON. However, reports circulating through social media this morning that Comet ISON has now reached magnitude 4, will make sure it has more work to do - as if comets had opinions anyway.

Comet Lovejoy continues to brighten and its ion and dust tails continue to grow. It's coma is a massive 3.7 arcmins now in a 180sec image, which is probably closer to 2 arcmins in reality as the movement probably overstates it a little. It is very hard to make a magnitude estimate now from CCD images. Magnitude estimates are now best made by binocular observations and comparing the brightness with the known brightness of nearby stars. Comet ISON is now a naked eye object. Lovejoy, I suspect is not far away either.

The encroaching moonlight was not very kind to last night's attempt to capture a nice shot. Early this week Rolando Lingusti took a brilliant shot of Comet Lovejoy that was featured in Tony Flander's article in Sky and Telescope.

Comet Lovejoy was discovered by Australia's talented and "best practice" comet hunter Terry Lovejoy, who was a speaker at this year's Advanced Astro Imaging Conference on the Gold Coast. As a keynote speaker he outlined his search methods, which were, I have to say very comprehensive and methodical. Catching two brilliant Christmas Comets in three years is not a fluke, its through sheer hardwork and relentless persuit of what the Oort Cloud throws up each year.

Image Credit: P.Lake 3 x 180sec R,G,B T11

I found it a bit easier to observe the details in the tail in the individual subframes Luminance channel, which I didn't use in the R,G,B image as I ws getting too much light to manage with the intruding moonlight.

Image Credit: P.Lake 180 sec Luminance T11

I refered to Comet Lovejoy as the "one wood" comet (golf club) earlier this week in reference to its slightly out of shape coma. This can be mainly attributable to the fast speed of the Comet travelling at 9 arcsecs per minute in a direction of about 35 degrees across the line of its tail. Its pretty hard to pull up that speed at 0.81 arsces per pixel

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