Planetary Traffic Jam Lookback / Speedy Comet Update

To capture the planet Uranus (at lower right) I had to overexpose the bright, sunlight lunar crescent. Naturally, this made the earth-lit portion stand out very clearly. Credit: Bob King
To capture the planet Uranus (at lower right) I had to overexpose the bright, sunlight lunar crescent. Naturally, this made the earth-lit portion stand out very clearly. Credit: Bob King

Wow, we had quite a weekend. The moon visited every evening sky planet while Venus and Mars squeezed together for their closest approach of the year. We’ve already looked at the “triple play” conjunction that occurred Friday. I thought it would be fun to look at the other alignments that have made the past few nights so memorable.

The moon (top) along with Venus and Mars Saturday evening Feb. 21, 2015. Credit: Guy Sander
The moon (top) along with Venus and Mars Saturday evening Feb. 21, 2015 from near Duluth, Minn. Credit: Guy Sander
Here, Guy has enlarged portions of the image to better see all three planets involved. Credit: Guy Sander
Here, Guy has enlarged portions of the image to better see all three planets involved. Credit: Guy Sander
Venus and Mars were still close Sunday night Feb. 22, but they will part in the coming days as Venus moves up and Mars slides closer to the Sun. Credit: Bob King
Venus and Mars were still close Sunday night Feb. 22, but they will part in the coming days as Venus moves up and away from the Sun while Mars slides closer. Credit: Bob King

As for that fast-moving comet discovered last week and en route to the evening sky, Karl Battams, an astrophysicist and computational scientist based at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington DC, is right now at his computer measuring positions of the comet from photos made with the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Comet SOHO-2875 survived its close passage of the Sun and may make an appearance in the evening sky soon. This photo montage was made using the coronagraph (Sun-blocking device) on SOHO. Click to watch a movie of the comet. Credit: NASA/ESA
Comet SOHO-2875 survived its close passage of the Sun and may make an appearance in the evening sky soon. This photo montage was made using the coronagraph (Sun-blocking device) on SOHO. Click to watch a movie of the comet. Credit: NASA/ESA

Once enough positions are known, he’ll send the data off to the Minor Planet Center where a preliminary orbit will be determined. With that information I can make a nice map showing us where to look for it. Stay tuned.

12 Responses

      1. Edward M. Boll

        I suppose that there is little chance that it could have brightened more than the 3.5 magnitude the last I heard of.

          1. Bob

            The universe is ELECTRIC. When NASSA finally succeeds in plagurizing the pioneering work of those who proved an ELECTRIC UNIVERSE, I expect to see you parroting the line as though you always knew. Please explain X-Ray emissions from comets if they are not electical in nature.

          2. astrobob

            Bob,
            I never said there are no electrical phenomena at comets. Long before the “Electric Universe” appeared astronomers discovered and understood how UV in sunlight ionizes (electrifies) certain molecules given off by comet like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Once ionized, they’re influenced by magnetic fields embedded in the solar wind, which drawn them out to form a comet’s ion tail. Likewise with cometary X-rays. Yes, they were a surprise – such is the joy of scientific discovery – but they came to be understood as an interaction between atoms in the solar wind and neutral molecules in a comet’s coma when a comet moves within 3 A.U.s of the Sun. Solar wind particles capture electrons from the neutral atoms. As they do, they emit X-rays. This was also observed and explained long before EU. The problem with EU is that its purveyors want to take one idea – electricity/plasma – and explain EVERYTHING with it.

            PS. I deleted the name-calling and expletives from your comment to keep this discussion above belt.

  1. Edward M. Boll

    Too cloudy last night for Lovejoy. There is tonight for finding it. The longer time it takes to find out observations about SOHO, the more doubtful I am that we will be able to see it with binoculars. Still hoping although

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