Certainly one of the most
spectacular cometary events of our lifetimes, Comet SW3 is breaking
up as it nears the Sun, and currently out of the 22 fragments
counted so far, three are visible in my photographic setup. Ranging
in brightness from 8th magnitude for the C fragment, to 13 or
so for the G fragment, each piece has its own unique appearance.
All subframes were stacked with the fast moving nucleus in register,
the comet is currently streaking along at 1 degree per day, and
a maxiumum of 2 minutes of exposure per subframe allows 5 arcseconds
of trailing. Please note the following in these images:
Fragment image - Yellow dust tail with bright greenish leading
edge from gas ionization. The nucleus is single, and very bright.
L = 12mins, RGB = 4 minutes each.
Fragment image - By far the most interesting fragment, again
a yellow extended fan, with a small green patch on the leading
edge. Note here especially the double nucleus, in which another
fragment is breaking off and moving down the tail! The entire
sub comet is bathed in a yellow dust halo.
Fragment image - Shorter 3 minute L frame, cut short by 35mph
winds. This part was so faint that it was only visible photographically.
The head seen here (with two stars superimposed as streaks) is
a round, ill defined condensation, this is barely a comet! It
is located about 4 degrees away from the C fragment, and about
a degree from the B.
Fragment not photographic. I tried in vain for the next brightest
piece, the R fragment to no avail. It has faded out.
Below are the
same images viewable separately, the C fragment being quite photogenic.
This comet is going to really get bright over the next month,