Thursday, 14 November 2013

Object of the Month: Comets

November is looking like the month for comets. With several prominent comets gracing our skies this month, we have developed a new comet targeting system, which allows you to easily take stunning images of these objects.

C/2012 S1 (ISON), Galaxy Cam
Comets are large balls of rock and ice. Most of them live in a belt outside the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt, with more comets yet further out in the hypothesize Oort cloud. And here they stay until something knocks them out of their orbit.

Every so often, a comet will leave its orbit and head for the inner solar system. As they approach the sun, the sun light will vaporize the ice on its surface, dislodging ice and dust, resulting in them leaving their characteristic tails.

At the time of writing, there are three comets available in the comets section of the job constructor. Comet ISON was in the news earlier in the year, as it was predicted to be extremely bright by the end of November. It hasn't quite lived up to the predictions, but it's still well worth taking a picture. This comet won't be visible much longer as it is about to go around the other side of the Sun.

Another good target this month is the lesser known comet C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy). It's still visible for a good portion of the night so images should be returned swiftly.

Comet Lovejoy, Cluster Cam
Processed and animated by Ross Wilkinson, Bolton AS
In order to see the full of extent of the tail, which can be very long, cluster cam should be used. An exposure of 60 seconds is sufficient. Galaxy cam may be used to view the core/coma of the comet, however there isn't much extra detail to be seen

Quick Tips
  • Last chance to see comet ISON. Use Galaxy Cam
  • Lovejoy is an easy target, best viewed with Cluster Cam
  • Exposure time of 60,000ms