Ring Nebula and Comet Fragment

May 28, 2006


Provided and copyright by: John Chumack, Miami Valley Astronomical Society
Summary authors & editors: John Chumack

The photo above shows the apparent juxtaposition of Comet 73P/Schwassmann Wachmann 3 and the Ring Nebula (M 57). Comet 73P has recently broken up into well over 60 pieces, but Fragment C (pictured) and Fragment B are bright and visible in small telescopes. Amazingly, the comet was moving so fast I could actually see movement in my images in under 5 seconds -- it was traveling about 14 km/sec (8,699 miles/sec).

The "Ring Nebula" is the gasp of a dying star, located at about 2,000 light years away or about 12 quadrillion miles (12,000,000,000,000,000). This handsome nebula can be found in the constellation of Lyra. In contrast to the immense distance of the Ring Nebula, Comet 73P is actually in our solar system -- approximately 16 million km (10 million miles). As the Comet's dust tail crossed over M57, it actually caused the central star to flicker -- really neat to see.

I took this image on May 8, 2006 around 04:05 U.T., under a moonlit sky, when the comet was still rather low on the horizon. It was captured with my Homemade 40cm (16") F4.5 Newtonian telescope and ST9-CCD camera from my observatory in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The exposure was 30 seconds each in RGB.

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