Click here for a higher resolution color image (1.3 Mb)

 

 

 

The Details
Object
Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 and M 76
Optics
Astro-Physics 105 mm Traveler
Platform
Astro-Physics 1200 GTO
Camera
SBIG STL-11000M
Filters
Tru-Balance Gen 2 LRGB filter set
Date
19 February 2015
Location
Desert Center, CA - Eastern Riverside County
Exposure
L 5 x 240 sec 1x1 binned; RGB 3 ea x 90 sec 2x2 binned
Software
Maxim DL/CCD, CCDStack, Photoshop CS 5
Orientation
Field of View: 03°09' x 02°06' centered on RA01h45m05s
DEC +51°31’46” (2000.0) . North angle 130.34°; east 90° CCW from north
Notes
Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 is a long-period comet making its return to the inner solar system. It's next visit will be in approximately 8000 years.

The glowing green head of the comet is produced by molecular diatomic carbon (C2) impacted by strong ultraviolet sunlight. The long blue tail color is due to fluorescent carbon monoxide (CO), Somewhere between February 17 and February 19 the comet's tail developed a distinctive break in it's continuity as seen in the above image just right and up from center.

Seen in the above image, the relatively nearby comet (106 million miles from Earth) is juxtaposed against the distant planetary nebula Messier 76 (3 000 to 5000 light-years), commonly known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula. In the nearly two days between capturing this image and the previous one I took on 17 February 2015, Comet Lovejoy traveled about 3 million miles further away from Earth, the comet's speed through space being about 80.000 mph.

This image was taken under less than ideal conditions. High, thin cloud cover obscured most of the sky during the exposure.

 

 

 

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