Celestial And enter the comet....

Cacheman

Veteran Member



As Comet ATLAS crumbles away, Comet SWAN arrives to take its place for skywatchers
By Hanneke WeiteringApril 21, 2020

8-10 minutes



Astrophotographer Chris Schur captured this view of Comet Atlas on April 9, 2020, from Payson, Arizona. The comet appears quite diffuse now, hopefully there will be something left to see near perihelion! Schur told Space.com via email.


Astrophotographer Chris Schur captured this view of Comet Atlas on April 9, 2020, from Payson, Arizona. "The comet appears quite diffuse now, hopefully there will be something left to see near perihelion!" Schur told Space.com via email. (Image credit: Chris Schur (Schurs Web Portal))

As I write these words, Comet ATLAS, which a month ago looked like it might evolve into the first really bright naked-eye comet in a decade, is now falling apart. It has fragmented into several pieces, quickly dispersing and not leaving behind enough material to produce any kind of significant display.

Soon after this comet was discovered near the end of 2019, it brightened at an almost furious pace. That combined with the fact that it was traveling in the same orbit as the "Great Comet" of 1844 suggested that it might be a fragment of that famously spectacular comet, and that by the spring it might evolve into a beautiful celestial showpiece that could possibly excite the world as well as inject some new interest and exposure to the science of astronomy.

Sadly, those expectations will not be met.


Once again, the fickle, unpredictable nature of comets came into play as we here at Space.com couched our initial projections as to what might — or might not — happen concerning the future of Comet ATLAS.

Related: The 9 most brilliant comets ever seen



Back in another time, astronomers probably would have relied on one particular set of predictions as to how bright the comet might ultimately get. However, during February and especially March, in this age of an internet run amok, we were seeing radically conflicting information and opinions from both bona-fide and "wannabe" experts. Some had suggested that ATLAS might rival Venus or even the moon in brightness!

Lacking a crystal ball, we felt it best to convey the full range of possibilities, from a bright naked-eye comet adorning the western evening sky in late May, to an object that might completely fizzle out. Unfortunately, ATLAS decided to pursue its own agenda, befuddling even veteran comet observers and not behaving like any previous comet. Despite claims to the contrary by some in the mainstream media, nobody knew for certain exactly what ATLAS was going to do.

Breaking up wasn't hard to do


The Virtual Telescope Project captured this view of Comet Atlas' shattered nucleus on April 11, 2020.



The Virtual Telescope Project captured this view of Comet Atlas' shattered nucleus on April 11, 2020. (Image credit: Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project (www.virtualtelescope.eu))

We had sounded an alarm in a column about the comet on April 6, when we pointed out that the amazing brightening trend of Comet ATLAS "hit a wall" on St. Patrick's Day (March 17) and by early April it actually began to fade. Prophetically, well-known comet expert John Bortle had suggested to Space.com that ATLAS could be "several magnitudes fainter than we currently assume it to be and may or may not, be large enough to survive perihelion passage."

And at the same time that our story was published, astronomers Quanzhi Ye (University of Maryland) and Qicheng Zhang (Caltech) submitted a report to The Astronomer's Telegram (a bulletin board of astronomical observations posted by accredited scientists) titled "Possible Disintegration of Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)." Their findings showed that the comet's head, or coma, of the comet was rapidly elongating, suggesting that the comet nucleus was beginning to fragment.

Confirmation of this came on April 11, when images of ATLAS revealed that its nucleus had broken into at least three pieces. It is not yet clear exactly what caused the comet to break apart, but this is likely the beginning of the end for ATLAS. The comet continues to show indications of breaking up as well as slowly fading away. Indeed, as Bortle had suggested, there may be nothing left when ATLAS makes its closest pass at the sun on May 31.

But even as Comet ATLAS slowly goes to pieces, another comet has moved in to take its place.

Enter Comet SWAN
On April 11, the same day that ATLAS broke into three pieces, amateur astronomer Michael Mattiazzo discovered a new comet while looking at data from NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

The comet suddenly appeared in images from SOHO's Solar Wind ANisotropies instrument, which goes by the acronym "SWAN." Mattiazzo has discovered eight comets since 2004 by carefully checking SWAN data most every day.

SOHO's SWAN instrument was not designed to find comets; its job is to survey the solar system for hydrogen. But because the comet is spewing a fairly significant amount of hydrogen in the form of water ice, it was picked up by SWAN.

Coincidentally, Mattiazzo lives in Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia.

A prehistoric visitor
The new comet appears to be traveling in a very elongated ellipse. For fun, I fed its orbital elements, which includes the eccentricity of its path around the sun, into an orbital simulator.

My simulation suggests Comet SWAN is traveling around the sun in a period of about 25 million years. This means that the last time it swept through the inner solar system may have been during the Oligocene Epoch, when Paraceratherium, a genus of hornless rhinoceros and one of the largest terrestrial mammals, was walking the Earth.

Future developments
This 3D orbit animation shows the path that Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) will take around the sun between April 2020 and March 2021. Comet SWAN is expected to reach perihelion, its closest point to the sun, around May 27, 2020 — two weeks after its closest approach to Earth. The comet's steep orbit is inclined 111 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane.


This 3D orbit animation shows the path that Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) will take around the sun between April 2020 and March 2021. Comet SWAN is expected to reach perihelion, its closest point to the sun, around May 27, 2020 — two weeks after its closest approach to Earth. The comet's steep orbit is inclined 111 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane. (Image credit: NASA JPL)

Currently, Comet SWAN is only accessible to those south of the equator. It is currently located in the faint constellation of Sculptor, not far from the first-magnitude star Fomalhaut. As of April 16 it was shining at magnitude +7.8 — easy enough to pick up in good binoculars — and displaying a head roughly one-sixth the apparent width of the moon.

The question is, will SWAN evolve into a bright object? The consensus is: "maybe." Like ATLAS, Comet SWAN appears to be a relatively small comet. It will pass closest to Earth on May 12 at a distance of 51.8 million miles (83.3 million kilometers), and it will be at its closest point to the sun (called perihelion) on May 27, when it will be 40 million miles (64.4 million km) away from our star.

Assuming Comet SWAN continues to brighten at its current pace, it could reach third magnitude during the final week of May. That would make it bright enough to be visible to the naked eye just when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere might have an opportunity to see it, both very low in west-northwest sky after sunset and again very low in the east-northeast sky before sunrise.

But the fact that the comet appeared quite suddenly suggests that it might be undergoing an outburst in brightness and that after a few days or weeks, SWAN might undergo a fade-down — or even possibly break up in much the same fashion as did Comet ATLAS.

In other words, SWAN ultimately could end up as an "ugly duckling."
We will be monitoring Comet SWAN closely in the coming weeks and will provide another update regarding its development next month. So stay tuned!
 

mourningdove

Pura Vida in my garden
Thanks for sharing. I was pretty bummed that Comet Atlas broke up, maybe Comet Swan will make up for it. On my calendar just in case.
 

Thomas Paine

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Somebody is shooting at us and they ain't using ,22 shorts. The Prez better get the Space Force wired uptight and outta sight fast.
 

PanBear

Veteran Member
How a comet broke due to the sun gravitation?
See this video done by Hubble Space Telescope last week:
comet ATLAS was breaking apart into more than 30 pieces:
video 10 sec
View: https://twitter.com/Xavi_Bros/status/1255228329403310081
 
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Dozdoats

On TB every waking moment

Hubble watches comet ATLAS disintegrate into more than 2 dozen pieces



These two Hubble Space Telescope images of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), taken on April 20 and 23, 2020, provide the sharpest views yet of the breakup of the fragile comet.

Hubble identified about 30 fragments on April 20, and 25 pieces on April 23. They are all enveloped in a sunlight-swept tail of cometary dust. “Their appearance changes substantially between the two days, so much so that it’s quite difficult to connect the dots,” said David Jewitt, professor of planetary science and astronomy at UCLA, Los Angeles, and leader of one of two teams that photographed the doomed comet with Hubble. “I don’t know whether this is because the individual pieces are flashing on and off as they reflect sunlight, acting like twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, or because different fragments appear on different days.”



These two Hubble Space Telescope images of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), taken on April 20 (left) and April 23, 2020, provide the sharpest views yet of the breakup of the solid nucleus of the comet. Hubble’s eagle-eye view identifies as many as 30 separate fragments. Hubble distinguishes pieces that are roughly the size of a house. Before the breakup, the entire nucleus of the comet may have been the length of one or two football fields. Astronomers aren’t sure why this comet broke apart. The comet was approximately 91 million miles (146 million kilometers) from Earth when the images were taken. Credit : NASA, ESA, STScI and D. Jewitt (UCLA)
“This is really exciting — both because such events are super cool to watch and because they do not happen very often. Most comets that fragment are too dim to see. Events at such scale only happen once or twice a decade,” said the leader of a second Hubble observing team, Quanzhi Ye, of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The results are evidence that comet fragmentation is actually fairly common, say researchers. It might even be the dominant mechanism by which the solid, icy nuclei of comets die. Because this happens quickly and unpredictably, astronomers remain largely uncertain about the cause of fragmentation. Hubble’s crisp images may yield new clues to the breakup. Hubble distinguishes pieces as small as the size of a house. Before the breakup, the entire nucleus may have been no more than the length of two football fields.

One idea is that the original nucleus spun itself into pieces because of the jet action of outgassing from sublimating ices. Because such venting is probably not evenly dispersed across the comet, it enhances the breakup. “Further analysis of the Hubble data might be able to show whether or not this mechanism is responsible,” said Jewitt. “Regardless, it’s quite special to get a look with Hubble at this dying comet.”

The comet was discovered on Dec. 29, 2019, by the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) robotic astronomical survey system based in Hawaii. This NASA-supported survey project for Planetary Defense operates two autonomous telescopes that look for Earth-approaching comets and asteroids.

The comet brightened quickly until mid-March, and some astronomers anticipated that it might be visible to the naked eye in May to become one of the most spectacular comets seen in the last 20 years.

However, the comet abruptly started to get dimmer instead of brighter. Astronomers speculated that the icy core may be fragmenting, or even disintegrating. ATLAS’ fragmentation was confirmed by amateur astronomer Jose de Queiroz, who was able to photograph around three pieces of the comet on April 11.

The disintegrating comet was approximately 91 million miles (146 million kilometers) from Earth when the latest Hubble observations were taken. If any of it survives, the comet will make its closest approach to Earth on May 23 at a distance of about 72 million miles (116 million kilometers), and eight days later it will skirt past the Sun at 25 million miles (40 million kilometers).
 

JF&P

Veteran Member
View attachment 190358

so which is it? five times the size of jupiter or a few miles across?
Relax.....its a few miles across.

The title here is CLICK BAIT.... and folks without astronomical training will freak out anyway..

OP.......why didn't you provide a LINK!!!????

Folks that are curious about comets and whats going on here should look up "comet tail and coma".

The tail and coma can be many many times larger than the actual comet itself.
 
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PanBear

Veteran Member
Skywatchers have an exciting month of cosmic phenomena in May.
May 5: Halley's Comet Eta Aquarids meteor shower.
May 7: The Super Flower Moon.
MAY 13: Comet SWAN will be closest to the Earth.
May 23: Comet Atlas will be the closest to earth.
View: https://twitter.com/_MariettaDavis/status/1257091116672987142



Some things to look forward to this month:
1. Meteor shower May 4/5
2. Super Moon May 7
3. Comet Atlas May 23
#HomeSchoolScience
View: https://twitter.com/SwedishCanary/status/1256671446606086144




 
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PanBear

Veteran Member
Long Tailed Comet SWAN
Image Credit & Copyright: D. Peach, Chilescope team

Explanation: Blowing in the solar wind the spectacular ion tail of Comet SWAN (C/2020 F8) extends far across this 10 degree wide telephoto field of view. Captured on May 2 its greenish coma was about 6 light-minutes from Earth. The pretty background starfield lies near the border of the constellations Cetus and Aquarius.

This comet SWAN was discovered at home by Australian amateur Michael Mattiazzo by checking images from the Sun-staring SOHO spacecraft's SWAN (Solar Wind ANisotropies) camera.

The comet has now become just visible to the naked-eye as it sweeps from southern to northern skies. Appearing in morning twilight near the eastern horizon, Comet SWAN will make its closest approach to planet Earth on May 12 and reach perihelion on May 27.



 

tanstaafl

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Press Conference: May 15, 2020
Asteroid 2017 PDC Discovered to Be Binary and Confirmed to Be Headed for Impact Near Tokyo; Six Spacecraft on the Way to Deflect It
Just to be perfectly clear, thorr is talking about the 2017 PDC Hypothetical Asteroid Impact Scenario (that would be the "practice" part of their post).
 

LucyT

Senior Member
Comet whizzing by Earth for 1st time in 6,800 years is visible to the naked eye
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
Published Jul. 8, 2020 3:56 PM
Stargazers have the opportunity to spot a rare object in the sky this month as a newly discovered comet flies through the inner solar system for the first time in 6,800 years.

Comet NEOWISE has been getting brighter and brighter in the early-morning sky, and in the coming days, it will make an appearance in the evening after sunset.
“Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) – discovered back in March by NASA's NEOWISE mission – is getting the attention of skywatchers across the Northern Hemisphere this month,” NASA said.

Earlier in 2020, two other newly discovered comets, Comet SWAN and Comet ATLAS, were showing promising signs of eventually becoming bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but both eventually fizzled. The third time was the charm when Comet NEOWISE was discovered as it has lived up to astronomers' predictions that it could become a visible feature in the night sky.

It is now brighter than Halley’s Comet appeared when it zipped through the inner solar system back in 1986

How to see Comet NEOWISE in the sky
Comet NEOWISE can be seen with the naked eye, but onlookers need to know what time and what direction to look to see it as it will not be a prominent feature in the sky.

Right now, it is only visible in the early morning about one to two hours before sunrise in the northeastern sky. This may mean waking up at 4 a.m. (local time) to spot it before the comet gets lost in the daylight.

Evening stargazers will be able to see the comet starting on the week of July 13 off to the northwest, just below the Big Dipper.

“From mid-July on, it's best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon,” NASA said. “Its closest approach to Earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles (103 million kilometers).” For comparison, the sun is about 93 million miles from Earth.
If cloudy conditions obscure the sky, onlookers can wait until the next night to try to look for the comet as it will be visible throughout the balance of July.

However, people may want to look for it sooner rather than later as it will gradually become dimmer and dimmer later in the month as it moves farther and farther away from the sun.

What Comet NEOWISE will look like
Many pictures of Comet NEOWISE on social media depict it as a brilliant object filling an area of the sky, but to the unaided eye, it may just look like a fuzzy star with a faint tail.

However, a simple telescope or pair of binoculars can reveal more details, especially when it is seen before twilight in the morning or after twilight in the evening.

Many of the images of Comet NEOWISE circulating on the internet were taken over a long period of time by cameras zoomed in on the object.

Comet NEOWISE will certainly be an interesting feature to look for in the sky, but it won’t be as grand as Comet Hale-Bopp, which put on a spectacular show in 1997.

Astronomers measure the brightness of objects in the night sky using a measurement known as magnitude. The lower the magnitude number a celestial body is given, the brighter it appears in the sky.

To be visible with the naked eye, an object must have a magnitude of 5 or 6. The full moon has a magnitude of around -12.


As of July 8, Comet NEOWISE had a magnitude of 1.6, according to TheSkyLive.com, a website that provides real-time data on the brightness of objects in the night sky.

For comparison, when the well-known Halley’s Comet visited the inner solar system in 1986, it had a magnitude of around 2, according to Scientific American.

However, Comet Hale-Bopp was one of the rare comets to be brighter than a magnitude 0 and was visible to the naked eye for more than a year.

 

mourningdove

Pura Vida in my garden
Comet whizzing by Earth for 1st time in 6,800 years is visible to the naked eye
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
Published Jul. 8, 2020 3:56 PM
Stargazers have the opportunity to spot a rare object in the sky this month as a newly discovered comet flies through the inner solar system for the first time in 6,800 years.

Comet NEOWISE has been getting brighter and brighter in the early-morning sky, and in the coming days, it will make an appearance in the evening after sunset.
“Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) – discovered back in March by NASA's NEOWISE mission – is getting the attention of skywatchers across the Northern Hemisphere this month,” NASA said.

Earlier in 2020, two other newly discovered comets, Comet SWAN and Comet ATLAS, were showing promising signs of eventually becoming bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but both eventually fizzled. The third time was the charm when Comet NEOWISE was discovered as it has lived up to astronomers' predictions that it could become a visible feature in the night sky.

It is now brighter than Halley’s Comet appeared when it zipped through the inner solar system back in 1986

How to see Comet NEOWISE in the sky
Comet NEOWISE can be seen with the naked eye, but onlookers need to know what time and what direction to look to see it as it will not be a prominent feature in the sky.

Right now, it is only visible in the early morning about one to two hours before sunrise in the northeastern sky. This may mean waking up at 4 a.m. (local time) to spot it before the comet gets lost in the daylight.

Evening stargazers will be able to see the comet starting on the week of July 13 off to the northwest, just below the Big Dipper.

“From mid-July on, it's best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon,” NASA said. “Its closest approach to Earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles (103 million kilometers).” For comparison, the sun is about 93 million miles from Earth.
If cloudy conditions obscure the sky, onlookers can wait until the next night to try to look for the comet as it will be visible throughout the balance of July.

However, people may want to look for it sooner rather than later as it will gradually become dimmer and dimmer later in the month as it moves farther and farther away from the sun.

What Comet NEOWISE will look like
Many pictures of Comet NEOWISE on social media depict it as a brilliant object filling an area of the sky, but to the unaided eye, it may just look like a fuzzy star with a faint tail.

However, a simple telescope or pair of binoculars can reveal more details, especially when it is seen before twilight in the morning or after twilight in the evening.

Many of the images of Comet NEOWISE circulating on the internet were taken over a long period of time by cameras zoomed in on the object.

Comet NEOWISE will certainly be an interesting feature to look for in the sky, but it won’t be as grand as Comet Hale-Bopp, which put on a spectacular show in 1997.

Astronomers measure the brightness of objects in the night sky using a measurement known as magnitude. The lower the magnitude number a celestial body is given, the brighter it appears in the sky.

To be visible with the naked eye, an object must have a magnitude of 5 or 6. The full moon has a magnitude of around -12.


As of July 8, Comet NEOWISE had a magnitude of 1.6, according to TheSkyLive.com, a website that provides real-time data on the brightness of objects in the night sky.

For comparison, when the well-known Halley’s Comet visited the inner solar system in 1986, it had a magnitude of around 2, according to Scientific American.

However, Comet Hale-Bopp was one of the rare comets to be brighter than a magnitude 0 and was visible to the naked eye for more than a year.

I was up at 5:30 this morning to get a look at NEOWISE. Unfortunately, low hanging clouds obsurred my view. I will try again in the morning.
 
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