A Comet Tale (Tail)

As we rang in the new year, we were treated to a special astronomical appearance of Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina, close to the bright star Arcturus in the image below.  Also visible near the top is the faint Comet P/19 Borrelly, and between the two comets is a bright meteor that swept through the scene.

Image Credit & Copyright: Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

It’s remarkable to notice the clearly visible tales of Catalina, the blue ion tail sweeping directly away from the Sun due to solar wind pressure, and the dusty white tail marking the path of the comet.  The dust is too heavy to be swept away by the Sun’s light, and so it follows steadily behind the Comet as it orbits.

I’ve seen only one comet in my life.  They are hard to spot and require a bit of luck with clear skies.  They also require good optics from a telescope or binoculars, as they tend to be dim.  It’s one of my major astrophotography goals to be able to catch a photo of a comet, but I’m okay if it takes a few years and some upgraded equipment.

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