May 23, 2006

Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 Passing by the Earth

Above is a time-lapse movie of Fragment B from Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. I had written about Comet SW3 ten days ago, mentioning that this comet had broken up into a large number of fragments. Fragment B is one of the bigger pieces from that breakup. What I find interesting about this movie is that the motion of the comet in front of the stars is quite obvious. In the past, when I had observed comets in the sky, the apparent motion of the comet was never as dynamic as in this movie; you could see the comet moving night-by-night as it swung around the Sun. Here, though, the motion is very dramatic: the entire video was filmed in one night.

(The apparent motion against the stars is due to the fact that Comet SW3 has been fairly close to the Earth, about 25 times the distance between the Earth and Moon; that's close in astronomical terms.)

If you have any problems in viewing the movie, click on the title link.

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