APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

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APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by APOD Robot » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:07 am

Image Comet Lovejoy over Paranal

Explanation: Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) survived its close encounter with the Sun earlier this month, taking its place among wonders of the southern skies just in time for Christmas. Seen here before sunrise from Paranal Observatory in Chile, the sungrazing comet's tails stretch far above the eastern horizon. Spanning over 20 degrees they rise alongside the plane of the our Milky Way galaxy. A breathtaking spectacle in itself, Lovejoy performs on this celestial stage with southern stars and nebulae, including the Large and Small Magellanic clouds right of the telescope dome, and the glow of zodiacal light along the left edge of the frame. With Paranal's Very Large Telescope units in the foreground, this wide-angle scene was captured on December 23. Receding from the Sun, Comet Lovejoy's tails have continued to grow in length even as the comet fades.

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Mactavish » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:22 am

What a great collection of images! Spectacular!!

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by alter-ego » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:26 am

Wow! This APOD and others in the link are stunning. There is an eyeful of truly beautiful comet pictures today!
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by TNT » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:27 am

Whoa! The sky is so...so different in the southern hemisphere! I can't recognize a single star, much less any constellations. But I have to say, this is one striking image.
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by bystander » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:33 am

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Ann » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:21 am

TNT wrote:Whoa! The sky is so...so different in the southern hemisphere! I can't recognize a single star, much less any constellations. But I have to say, this is one striking image.
Can you see a small black cloud inside the Milky Way? It is positioned so that if it fell "straight down", it would be bisected by the leftmost part of the telescope. There appears to be a bright star at the extreme upper right of the small black cloud. The cloud is shaped almost like a fat "comma", with a small extension pointing to the right. That dark cloud is the famous Coalsack.

The star that appears to be inside the rightmost part of the Coalsack (but really isn't) is Alpha Crucis, the alpha star of the Southern Cross. The rest of the Southern Cross is above and to the left of Alpha Crucis.

Look at the annotated image again and find out which stars are Alpha and Beta Crucis. Use them as pointers to move left until you come to a brightish, very slightly extended and very slightly yellowish light. That is Omega Centauri, the great globular cluster.

Move to the left of the Coalsack, about as far as the width of the Coalsack itself. You'll come to a pair of stars, one positioned above the other in this image. These stars are Alpha and Beta Centauri. Alpha Centauri, the lowest of the two stars here, is the nearest of all stars to us, apart from the Sun.

Now move to the right of the right of the Coalsack and the Southern Cross. You will come to a part of the Milky Way which is full of bright "condensations" and clusters. We are now in the constellation Carina. You can see a bright cluster that seems to hang "below" the Milky Way. That is IC 2602, the "Southern Pleiades". To the upper left of IC 2602 you can see two bright clusters or condensations. The leftmost of these is NGC 3532, a rich and large cluster. The condensation to the right of NGC 3532 is the extended Eta Carina Nebula and Eta Carina itself. Check out this picture of Eta Carina, too.

A good portrait of both NGC 3532 and the Eta Carina Nebula is this one.To the right of Eta Carina is another cluster, NGC 3114. Eta Carina, NGC 3114 and IC 2602 form an almost equilateral triangle.

To the far right in this picture, you can see a very bright-looking star. That is Canopus, Alpha Carina, the second brightest-looking star in the sky after Sirius.

To the lower left of Canopus is the Large Magellanic Cloud, of course. Note the intensely blue-green color of the bright cluster powering the Tarantula Nebula, the R136 cluster. It could be that we are seeing the blue-green OIII emission from the Tarantula Nebula, too.

Canopus and the Large Magellanic Cloud form an almost equilateral triangle with another cluster, NGC 2516.

To the far upper left in the picture, you can see a pair of bright stars. They are Saturn and Spica. Spica, of course, is the alpha star of the constellation Virgo.

Finally, take a look at this picture which shows you the Coalsack, Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Southern Cross, NGC 3532 (looking very bright here), The Eta Carina Nebula, IC 2602 and NGC 3114. Can you see them all? There is a bonus nebula here, a small pink "smiley-mouth" to the left of the large Eta Carina Nebula. The small pink nebula is the Lambda Centauri Nebula.

Ann
Last edited by Ann on Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:12 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by agulesin » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:32 am

This just FANTASTIC! Congrats to firstly Guillaume Blanchard and the rest of the APOD Team. This should be "APOD of the Year 2011" (is there such a "competition"?) :-))

Happy New year to all!

ruben

Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by ruben » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:10 am

Este es nuestro cielo!!! Colonia del Sacramento - Uruguay. Felicidades para todos ...

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by starchaser » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:15 pm

Such a wonderful vista of the southern sky! Thank you Ann for the description, I really should learn more about the sky 'down-under'. I'm really jealous, because by the time the comet becomes visible for my latitude the spectacle will be over. :cry:

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by orin stepanek » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:24 pm

I'm glad they post pictures of comets! 8-) If I saw it I would probably have mistaken it for a vapor trail! :?
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by moonstruck » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:52 pm

Wow, thanks Guillaume for such a great picture and thanks Ann for the great lesson. :ssmile:

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by TNT » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:23 pm

Thanks for your help, Ann. But I realized why I couldn't recognize anything. The image was inverted in such a way that mist of the constellations were sideways. Now that I found Crux and Centaurus, I should easily be able to pinpoint other constellations.
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:28 pm

TNT wrote:Thanks for your help, Ann. But I realized why I couldn't recognize anything. The image was inverted in such a way that mist of the constellations were sideways. Now that I found Crux and Centaurus, I should easily be able to pinpoint other constellations.
A good many of the most well known constellations are visible from both hemispheres. What I've found tricky when in the south is recognizing them simply because they are upside down. Even obvious ones like Orion can cause a sort of curious reaction- you know right away what it is, but can't pinpoint what is wrong with the view. The Moon is upside down, too, which makes it look odd- sometimes in a way that you can't immediately pin down.
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by TNT » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:15 pm

I know the southern constellations pretty well, too, which makes me wonder: if you're ever south of the Tropic of Capricorn, will you see the sun in the north?
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:03 pm

TNT wrote:I know the southern constellations pretty well, too, which makes me wonder: if you're ever south of the Tropic of Capricorn, will you see the sun in the north?
Anyplace south of the Tropic of Cancer you will see the Sun cross the meridian in the north at least part of the year. Anyplace south of the Tropic of Capricorn and you will see it cross the meridian in the north all year long. Anywhere on Earth you can see the Sun in the north along some part of its daily path.

The Sun being in the north is one more thing that can give a sense of the surreal to a northerner traveling in the southern hemisphere, since we are- consciously or unconsciously- accustomed to having a sense of north and south based on the position of the Sun.
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Wolf Kotenberg » Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:08 am

How badly ( or goodly ? ) was the orbit bent ? and is the orbit known ? The networks are all mistified by this mayan calendar date of the end of the world but I think they just ran out of ink ( or rock ).

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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Beyond » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:32 am

Wolf Kotenberg wrote:How badly ( or goodly ? ) was the orbit bent ? and is the orbit known ? The networks are all mistified by this mayan calendar date of the end of the world but I think they just ran out of ink ( or rock ).
From what i have read about the Myan calendar, 12/2012 marks the end of a series of 2500 year cycles that they used. Some say that there is another one, but it wasn't written down. Maybe they ran out of chisels to write with?? :mrgreen:
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Chris Peterson » Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:53 am

Wolf Kotenberg wrote:How badly ( or goodly ? ) was the orbit bent ? and is the orbit known ?
I doubt the orbit was changed all that much by the perihelion passage. Why would it be? The solar material it passed through was still extremely tenuous- a hard vacuum- so there can't have been much drag. Material jetting off its surface might have had some small impact on the orbit, but probably not much. And there isn't much else that could change things.
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Chris Peterson » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:10 am

Beyond wrote:From what i have read about the Myan calendar, 12/2012 marks the end of a series of 2500 year cycles that they used. Some say that there is another one, but it wasn't written down.
It was written down. December 2012 is the end of a Long Count cycle- the 13th b'ak'tun - and marks the beginning of the next b'ak'tun, the 14th. Saying the Mayan calendar ends at this time is like saying ours ended in 2000 because there was no third millennium, or like saying it ends in December.

The whole concept of some sort of apocalypse next year is based on a lack of understanding of the Mayan calendar (and even if their calendar did end next year, why should that matter?) Of course, that misunderstanding may be deliberate- lots of con artists have made a lot of money off of gullible fools because of it!
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by Beyond » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:28 am

Hey, ours ends next year also. Funny, it seems to do that every year. Must have something to do with a sun god, eh :?:
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by bystander » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:57 am

Chris Peterson wrote:It was written down. December 2012 is the end of a Long Count cycle- the 13th b'ak'tun - and marks the beginning of the next b'ak'tun, the 14th. Saying the Mayan calendar ends at this time is like saying ours ended in 2000 because there was no third millennium, or like saying it ends in December.

The whole concept of some sort of apocalypse next year is based on a lack of understanding of the Mayan calendar (and even if their calendar did end next year, why should that matter?) Of course, that misunderstanding may be deliberate- lots of con artists have made a lot of money off of gullible fools because of it!
[b]2012 and the Long Count[/b] wrote:
According to the Popol Vuh, a book compiling details of creation accounts known to the K'iche' Maya of the Colonial-era highlands, we are living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three creations that the gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world where men were placed. In the Maya Long Count, the previous creation ended at the start of a 14th b'ak'tun.

The previous creation ended on a long count of 12.19.19.17.19. Another 12.19.19.17.19 will occur on December 20, 2012, followed by the start of the 14th b'ak'tun, 13.0.0.0.0, on December 21, 2012. There is only one reference to the current creation's 13th b'ak'tun in the fragmentary Mayan corpus:
...
Despite the publicity generated by the 2012 date, Susan Milbrath ... stated that "We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end" in 2012. "For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble ... To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in." "There will be another cycle," says E. Wyllys Andrews V ... "We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this."
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Re: APOD: Comet Lovejoy over Paranal (2011 Dec 28)

Post by TNT » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:14 am

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