Comet Machholz in Canes Venatici

July 05, 2005


Provided by: Tony Cook
Summary authors & editors: Tony Cook

One of the pleasures of amateur astro-photography is to capture a rare image of a planet, asteroid or comet posing alongside a deep sky object. During the week of 6th to 12th June 2005, the comet C/2004 Q2 (Comet Machholz) glided slowly through the constellation of Canes Venatici and to within one half degree of the bright galaxy Messier 94 (bottom center). Machholz is the dim, fuzzy patch at left center. It passed closest to Earth this past winter and was briefly visible with the unaided eye.

This image was captured around 00:00 Universal Time (UT), June 9, 2005 from Dallow Moor, near North Yorkshire, United Kingdom. On the 9th, Machholz was 2.03 astronomical units (AU) from Earth and a little further from the Sun -- 2.30 AU. It was shining dimly at magnitude 10.2. It's dust tail is very faint and can just be discerned on the image, pointing away from the coma at 2 o'clock.

Somewhere between 15 and 20 million light years away, shines M94 at a magnitude 8.2. It's a star burst galaxy with a bright active region surrounding the center of the galaxy. This galaxy underwent a massive burst of star formation about 1 billion years ago. The outer, more yellow, disk of stars is an older population from a much earlier star forming period. See also the Earth Science Picture of the Day for January 26, 2005.

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