Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 10:33 PM CDT
Contributed by: bobmoody
#5 Number of fragments listed reaches 71 as of 06/01/06! Click to view ALL orbital elements
#4 The latest incredible new image of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 from the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope on APOD for May 3rd.
#3 Click on the link to APOD for April 26 for an outstanding image of fragment "B" of comet S-W 3 taken by the 8.2 meter Kueyen instrument of the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory. Numerous pieces can be seen in that image indicating that this comet is still crumbling right before our eyes. S-W 3 passes nearest to the Earth on May 13, and nearest the Sun on June 6-7.....ALSO.... click "read more" below for Mike Holloway's latest image at the end of this article. This image is being carried on"Cometography" website.
#2 It seems that a possible break-up of the nucleus of fragment "B" may be underway over the last few days. In a negative image made by Dr. P. Clay Sherrod of Arkansas Sky Observatories, which was reprocessed by Mike Holloway, a suspicious brightening behind and separate from the nucleus can be seen. (click "read more")
#1 As of April 11, 2006, the number of individual fragments which have been located and associated with S-W 3 has reached 40 fragments according to a web article in Sky & Telescope !
Every so often, astronomy offers all of us who appreciate the beauty of the universe some little surprise. Both amateur and professional astronomers alike have recently been monitoring a well-known short-period comet that has begun to disintegrate and is soon doomed to fade out of existence. In the next 3 to 4 months, Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 will be front-and-center on the astronomical stage.
As it sings its swan song, every person on the planet will have a chance to see Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (I'll just shorten it to S-W 3
) as a classic "iconic" comet... with the fuzzy head and a nearly stellar nucleus, and with a faint and likely short to medium length tail which will always be pointing away from the Sun. S-W 3
joins a few other recent comets that have broken up into fragments while the world watched in the last 150 years or so.
|Fragment "C" of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 by Mike Holloway. This is a cropped image of a 3-frame mosaic of fragments C, B, and E, which may be seen by clicking on the link to Holloway Comet Observatory to the right. |
The most spectacular of these recent fragmented comets was Shoemaker-Levy 9 which slammed its 22 tiny comets into Jupiter in 1994. (See image below) I can clearly remember setting up my telescope on July 16, 1994 and bringing Jupiter to a sharp focus at low power. There before my eyes was a huge smudge of brownish-black, larger than the Earth, where a fragment had crashed into the upper layers of the giant planet's outer atmosphere.
AOAS's resident comet specialist and astrophotographer, Mike Holloway, has been keeping a watch on S-W 3
for some time now. We can all follow his photographic journal of what transpires with this comet on his website by clicking on Holloway Comet Observatory
. While on Mike's site, rummage through his extensive collection of comet images from the past few years, as well. Although he hasn't been doing this for a long period of time, Mike works very closely with Arkansas' top astronomer, Dr. P. Clay Sherrod, better known around the world as Dr. Clay. There are some remarkable images from Mike's rapidly growing portfolio.
|Called by many a "String of Pearls", Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragmented into at least 22 pieces that each crashed into Jupiter in the summer of 1994. Hubble Space Telescope image.|
We at AOAS are all proud of Mike and his dedication to comet astrophotography and we're even more proud that he's a dedicated member of our club. As the years go by, I see him becoming someone known around the world as a well-known and noteworthy comet photographer, someone professionals turn to for the images that might make the difference in determining essential information about these wandering vagabonds of our Solar System.
Click read more for the rest of the story.