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Saturday, November 04, 2017


Comet 96P/Machholz zooms past the sun

Single image of comet 96P Machholz from the SOHO LASCO C3 instrument on 27 October 2017. Click on any image to embiggenComposte series of images as the comet swung around the sun fro 26-28 October. The gap is where some images were not takenAnimation of the same series.

Comet 96P/Machholz came to perihelion on October 27, unfortunately, it was too close to the sun for us Earth-bound observers, but fortunately a bevy of sun-observing spacecraft watched intently as it passed by. It was picked up by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory Ahead (STEREO-A) spacecraft.

This visitation wasn't as spectacular as the one in 2002, but was very interesting nonetheless. Most importantly, high-resolution images from SOHO LASCO 3 showed the presence of 3 fragments.

Two of these fragments had been seen in the 2012 passage of the comet, the third was new.

You can read about the background to the comet, other observations and its fragmentation in far more detail at the excellent skyhunt blog (go now, you won't be disappointed, I'll wait).
I won't try and duplicate Trygve Prestgard's excellent work,I will just presnt my images from the STEREO spacecraft where I hunted for the fragments. Despite high resolution COR2A images, I found no fragments.

Comet 99P Macholz in the STEREO COR2 Imager on 26 OctoberAnimation of 26 October images, note tail movement

Single image of STEREO COR2A from 28 October, 2017Animation of 28 October images

Comet 96P Machholz in the STEREO H1A imager on 23 October (right down the bottom left) click to emggenAnimation of the comets brief sojourn in the H1A imager field of view

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