Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day 1-30-03
Posted on 01/30/2003 3:51:47 AM PST by petuniasevan
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2003 January 30
Explanation: Cruising through the inner Solar System, new Comet Kudo-Fujikawa reached perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, yesterday, January 29. Passing within 28.4 million kilometers of the Sun, this comet came much closer than innermost planet Mercury basking only 57.9 million kilometers from our parent star. So close to the Sun, comet Kudo-Fujikawa was extremely bright but impossible for earthbound observers to see against the solar glare. Still, the space-based SOHO observatory captured these views of the comet as it neared perihelion by using a coronograph's occulting disk to block the overwhelming sunlight. In the series of images, the size and location of the blocked-out Sun is indicated by white circles, while arrows point to the traveling comet's bright coma and developing tail. Though fading on its outbound journey, Kudo-Fujikawa should soon be visible to southern hemisphere comet-watchers in February's evening skies.
I'm hoping that Comet C/2002 V1 NEAT (found in the course of the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking program) will be a much brighter comet.
Here it is as of 1-28-03:
This comet is presently around mag. 5.8 - 6.1 according to observers worldwide.
Finder chart for both comets (Kudo is "X5", NEAT is "V1")
If you like. It looks like it came within 3 or 4 solar radii, but the view might be oblique so the closest approach might have been much more than 3 or 4 radii. All the same, the comet took some abuse from solar heat.
It does, but only generally away from the sun. It is made of at least some particulate matter that would follow a composite vector of the comet's motion and the pressure from the sun's radiation. The tail looks so short in the image that we are probably looking at a severely foreshortened angle out of the plane of the orbit.
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