Comet Schwassmann - Wachmann 3/73P

Fragmenting Comet in Corona Borealis

Uploaded 4/23/06

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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:

"C" 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.

"B" 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.

"G" 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.

"R" 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, stay tuned...

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Select an image size for a larger view: 800 x 600 1200 x 800 1600 x 1200
Select an image size for a larger view: 800 x 600 1200 x 800 1600 x 1200
Instrument: 12.5" f/5 Home made Newtonian Platform: Astrophysics 1200 QMD CCD Camera: SBIG 10XME NABG with Enhanced Water Cooling Guider: SBIG ST4 Exposure: LRGB = 12:4:4:4 RGB Combine Ratio: 1: 1.05: 1.11 Filters: AstroDon RGB Tricolor Location: Payson, Arizona Elevation: 5150 ft. Sky: Seeing FWHM = 15 arcsec (Maxim DL - 10min subframe), Transparency 6/10 (High Winds made Guiding difficult) Outside Temperature: 35 F CCD Temperature: -30 C Processing Tools: Maxim DL, Photoshop, PixInsight, Starizona Debloomer. HOME GALAXIES EMISSION NEBS REFLECTION NEBS COMETS GLOBULARS OPEN CLUST PLANETARIES LINKS


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