Thursday, December 22, 2011

Comet Lovejoy just keeps putting on a better and better show down in Australia.

Dawn sightings of Comet Lovejoy are now widespread around the Southern Hemisphere. (The tilt of the comet's orbit does not favor northern sightings.) It is also interesting to observe the comet's "double tail." These are the dust and ion tails. The gaseous ion tail is blown almost directly away from the sun by the solar wind, while the heavier, brighter dust tail more closely follows the comet's orbit:diagram. The gap between the two tails can be seen with the naked eye while the sky is still pitch dark ~30 minutes before dawn.

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