Once in a blue comet

Eso_potw1940a_1024

eso_potw1940a October 7th, 2019

Credit: ESO/SPECULOOS Team/E. Jehin

This image features a comet located in the outer reaches of the Solar System: comet C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS). As its name suggests, the comet was discovered in 2016 by the Pan-STARRS telescopes in Hawaii. The new image seen here was captured by a project based at ESOs Paranal Observatory in Chile named the Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars or SPECULOOS for short. Comets are balls of dust, ice, gas and rock. When they pass close to the Sun, their ice warms up, turns to gas, and escapes in a process called outgassing. This process forms fuzzy envelopes around the comets nucleus, called comas, and distinctive tails. Observations from SPECULOOS show that the tail of C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) changes dramatically across a single night, making for a dynamic set of images. The image shown here, and accompanying frames in the time-lapse movie, comprise observations taken on 18 January 2018 during the test phase of SPECULOOSs Callisto telescope, and were taken when the comet was 2.85 AU from the Sun (1 AU being the Earth-Sun distance) and travelling inwards. This comet is particularly exciting because of the rare compounds and molecules that scientists have detected in its coma: carbon monoxide and nitrogen ions. These compounds give the comet distinctive blue emission lines so much so that it is nicknamed the blue comet. This shy comet only orbits the Sun once every 20 000 years, its most recent approach being in May 2018. This image was taken over a period of time as the telescope tracked the comets motion; the bright streaks of light in the background are faraway stars, but the comet and its gaseous coma are all in focus, a testament to the tracking power of SPECULOOS. Link: Movie showing changes in the comets tail

Provider: European Southern Observatory

Image Source: https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1940a/

Curator: European Southern Observatory, Garching bei München, None, Germany

Image Use Policy: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS)
Subject - Solar System
Interplanetary Body > Comet
Eso_potw1940a_1280
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ID
potw1940a
Subject Category
A.2.2  
Subject Name
C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS)
Credits
ESO/SPECULOOS Team/E. Jehin
Release Date
2019-10-07T06:00:00
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1940a/
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
1532.0, 1516.0
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
European Southern Observatory
URL
https://www.eso.org
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2
City
Garching bei München
State/Province
None
Postal Code
D-85748
Country
Germany
Rights
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher
European Southern Observatory
Publisher ID
eso
Resource ID
potw1940a
Metadata Date
2019-09-06T10:27:21+02:00
Metadata Version
1.1
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