Comet Elenin Extremely Faint After Solar Conjunction

What's left of Comet Elenin lies at the intersection of the two yellow lines. Click photo to go to L. Elenin's website. The three bright objects are images of brighter stars. Credit: Leonid Elenin

I haven’t seen it yet but its discoverer, Leonid Elenin, remotely photographed the comet early this morning using a computer-operated telescope in New Mexico. The news is bad for visual observers – Comet Elenin is exceedingly faint, around 18th magnitude. If that’s all that remains of the comet, it will be too faint to spot visually in even large telescopes.

As the comet rapidly moves higher into a darker sky in the next few mornings, a tenuous dust cloud might still show in large amateur scopes, but that’s only a hope. From here on out, time-exposure photos taken through large telescopes may be the only option to keep track of the comet’s debris. In an e-mail communication this morning with Mr. Elenin, he pointed out that because the comet is so faint, more images will be needed to confirm that what’s shown in his photo are its remains.

Note: For today’s blog on Jupiter and choice sights, please scroll down.

7 Responses

  1. David

    Hey Bob. So does the faintness of the comet mean that the comet could have broken apart or could it be the coma shrunk from the heat of the sun?

    1. astrobob

      Based on the comet’s behavior in late August when the coma suddenly became elongated when the comet began to fade, that would imply a breakup of the small, central cometary body into pieces. Comas expand due to the heat from the sun, but once the central source breaks up, the coma eventually dissipates. By early-mid September, Elenin’s coma was became very faint as the pieces vaporized away. There is still some hope that the now very faint gas cloud (leftover coma) might still be seen in large telescopes.

  2. David

    Hey Bob. I have to tell you something that is completly off subject. Okay so last night a freind called and told me he saw a neon green sphere like object dive out the sky and hit the ground in the woods he said it did not make a sound when it hit he drove over to the area he thought it hit and he said it was a cloud of smioke over it. But thats not all im in kansas city missouri and on the news lastnight it was a report of 85 ufo sighting in my city alone from monday through weds. Night. So i found that to be interesting so i looked up any other ufo or strange falling stars in western timezone and it has been a 45% increase in ufo sighting in the last week! It strange its creepy and its awsome. So what do think about this Bob? And i know its random but i thought you might be interested.

    1. astrobob

      Hi David,
      Sounds like a cool sight. Most if not all UFOs are misinterpreted natural or man-made phenomena. A “neon green sphere” sounds like a bright fireball meteor, and it would have been widely observed. The cloud of smoke could have been light-polluted haze or possible fog or even fire smoke from somewhere. I checked the fireball network site ( to see if others reported any fireballs from last night, but there’s nothing from your region as of early this morning. The other UFOs reported since Wednesday could also have been sightings of the planet Jupiter, which as you know is very bright in the east. It’s not unusual to have bright stars (Sirius for instance), Venus and Jupiter reported as UFOs over the years. Sometimes people don’t know they’re there until one night they look up and suddenly wonder – “Hey, what’s that bright thing??”

  3. good friday Bob
    just commenting on the last reply. every summer, or every time Venus is high in the evening sky, i get the same kind of queries. in the summer time, people approacj me to tell me about a mysterious object that moves erratically just above the mountain ridge. after asking the basics (time, general direction, altitude) it Always turns out to be Capella. the fact that all of those ppl see it after closing out the bar is just a coincidence, eh? with Venus emerging from the glow of the Sun (still too low for my location at this time), i’m sure i’ll have to do some refreshing, which i don’t mind at all and allows me to offer them a peek through my modest optics.
    well hoping everyone enjoy the Thanksgiving week-end.
    that would be another question…does canada celebrate thansgiving first in the calendar because we came up with the idea 1st ? 😉
    have a great friday
    the annoying french-canadian stargazer

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