Hergenrother: Going to pieces (literally)

Nov 5

Written by:
11/5/2012 12:13 PM  RssIcon

Comet Hergenrother breaking up

A couple weeks ago "Eyes on the Sky" highlighted the path of Comet Hergenrother as it passed through Pegasus, given that the comet had unexpectedly brightened from a barely-visible 15th-magnitude to a visible-in-many-small-scopes 10th-magnitude.  Now it appears a bit more obvious why it brightened up so much: Comet Hergenrother is breaking up.

According to Astronomy Magazine:

"Comet Hergenrother is splitting apart," said Rachel Stevenson from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Using the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, we have resolved that the nucleus of the comet has separated into at least four distinct pieces, resulting in a large increase in dust material in its coma." 

I found a comet tracking chart for Hergenrother here at AstronomyNow, which shows where the comet will be out to early January.  Let me know in the comments if you see this comet again, and your estimates of magnitudes.

Photo courtesty of NASA / JPL-Caltech / NOAO / Gemini

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.