Comet 65P/Gunn

Wise_wise2010-020_500

WISE_WISE2010-020 June 11th, 2010

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

This image from NASAs Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) features comet 65P/Gunn. Comets are balls of dust and ice left over from the formation of the Solar System. As a comet approaches the Sun it is heated and releases gas and dust from its surface. The gas and smallest dust particles are blown back by the solar wind into a long, spectacular tail. Comet 65P/Gunns tail is seen here in red trailing off to the right of the comets nucleus (near the center of the image).

Comet 65P/Gunn was discovered by James Gunn in 1970, who is the Project Scientist for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, another important survey of the sky done in visible light. This observation of the comet was made by WISE on April 24, 2010 (just one month after its closest approach to the Sun) in the constellation Capricornus. This is a single-frame observation, covering an area of 1.5 by 1.5 full Moons (0.76 by 0.76 degrees).

This comet is what is called a short-period, Jupiter family comet. It orbits the Sun inside the main asteroid belt between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. The orbit of 65P/Gunn is relatively round compared to many comets, and it takes 6.79 years to complete one trip around the Sun. At the time that this image was taken, the comet was at a distance from Earth of 392 million kilometers (243 million miles). For reference, the average distance between the Sun and Earth is 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). The comets speed, relative the Sun, when this picture was snapped was about a whopping 7,700 km/hr (4,800 mph).

Just ahead of the comet is an interesting fuzzy red feature that makes it look something like a swordfish, or narwhal. This sword is made of dust particles that have previously been shed by 65P/Gunn as it orbits the Sun, this is called a debris trail. Comet debris trails were discovered by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). The Gunn debris trail was first observed by WISE science team member Russ Walker in the IRAS survey. It was later observed by astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The dust in a debris trail is warmed by sunlight and glows in infrared light. Trails like this one often can nearly encircle the Sun, following the orbital path of the comet that produced it. Trails appear both ahead and behind the comets nucleus and have a narrow, contrail-like appearance. They represent the first stages in the evolution of meteoroid streams. Over time, the material in the debris trail can drift away from the comets orbit and become clouds of debris that will be seen as a meteor shower if Earth passes through it.

Also visible in this image are several asteroidschunks of rock and metal leftover from the formation of the Solar Systemall of which orbit the Sun in the main asteroid belt. Asteroids are much cooler than stars and appear red in this image. The most prominent asteroids in the image are: (2661) Bydzovsky, (76826), (E4813) , and 2007 VG119.

WISE sees invisible infrared light, and all four infrared detectors aboard WISE were used to make this image. The colors are representational. In this image, 3.4-micron light is colored blue; 4.6-micron light is green; 12-micron light is orange; and 22-micron light is red. Bluer objects in this image are warmer in temperature, like stars, and cooler objects, like asteroids and the comet, are redder in appearance.

Image Source: /image/WISE/WISE2010-020

Curator: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, Berkeley, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Pulic Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Comet 65P/Gunn
Subject - Solar System
Interplanetary Body » Comet
Interplanetary Body » Comet » Tail » Dust
Wise_wise2010-020_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 20h 33m 30.5s
DEC = -24° 54’ 41.6”
Orientation
North is 14.6° CCW
Field of View
45.8 x 45.8 arcminutes
Constellation
Capricornus

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue WISE Infrared (Near-IR) 3.4 µm
Arrow_left_green WISE Infrared (Near-IR) 4.6 µm
Arrow_left_orange WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 12.0 µm
Arrow_left_red WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 22.0 µm
Spectrum_ir1
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_orange
Arrow_top_red
Wise_wise2010-020_1280
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ID
WISE2010-020
Subject Category
A.2.2.   A.2.2.3.1.  
Subject Name
Comet 65P/Gunn
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/WISE/WISE2010-020
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
WISE, WISE, WISE, WISE
Instrument
Color Assignment
Blue, Green, Orange, Red
Band
Infrared, Infrared, Infrared, Infrared
Bandpass
Near-IR, Near-IR, Mid-IR, Mid-IR
Central Wavelength
3400, 4600, 12000, 22000
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
J2000
Reference Value
308.377252, -24.911567
Reference Dimension
2000, 2000
Reference Pixel
1000, 1000
Scale
-3.81944439141100e-04, 3.81944439141100e-04
Rotation
14.566644
Coordinate System Projection:
SIN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
URL
http://wise.astro.ucla.edu
Name
Email
outreach@ssl.berkeley.edu
Telephone
Address
7 Gauss Way
City
Berkeley
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
94720
Country
USA
Rights
Pulic Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
WISE
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/WISE/WISE2010-020
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2011-08-05
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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There is no distance meta data in this image.