Comet Lulin

March 03, 2009


Photographer:John Chumack, Galactic Images Website; Doug Zubenel
Summary Author: John Chumack

The photos above shows Comet Lulin zipping through our solar system. The one at left was taken on February 20 from the Chumack Observatories in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I took a chance and went out to my observatories even though there were some cirrus clouds floating around. The skies finally cleared around 11:30 p.m. (local Central Standard Time), just as Lulin was clearing a stand of trees in the east. I was worried because the seeing/transparency was actually pretty poor, and I wanted to try to capture the comet during the current new Moon time frame. Lulin was sufficiently bright to be detected with the unaided eye, from a dark location, and it was very easy to see with binoculars, even the dust tail could be observed.

The photo at right is a larger view from DeSoto, Kansas taken by Doug Zubenel on February 23. At its brightest (on February 23), Lulin was shining at magnitude of 5.5.

I tracked on Comet Lulin's Nucleus to show the finer details in the dust tail, shown on the left, and anti-tail on the right. The Comet is traveling from to east and west which corresponds to left to right in this image. It’s moving rapidly in a direction opposite to that Earth is orbiting against the background stars. On the 24th of February, Comet Lulin appeared to be within two degrees of Saturn. It’s passing the Earth at a distance of only 38 million miles (61 million km), about the average distance to Mars. Lulin’s visit is its first to our solar system, and as it nears the Sun, it’s shedding its ice quickly. Note that the green coloration results from the presence of CN2 (Cyanogen). Comet Lulin was discover in 2007 by several Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers "Lulin Survey Team."

Photo details: 5" (12 cm) diameter reflector and Canon Rebel Xsi camera; ISO 400, 93 minute exposure; 33 subs (20 at 4 minutes and 13 at 1 minute) to help prevent over exposure of the nucleus. Be sure to look at the video of Lulin as seen through binoculars.