⇍   November 11th, 2007   ⇏ 

Copyright 2007 Michael Anttila

I'm a few days early again this week, but that's OK. Angela is off to Chicago for a weekend vacation with Jen, and I'm going to try to relax this weekend and get some useful things done.

Last weekend we went on a wine tour in the Niagara region. It was a lot of fun and we visited a whole bunch of wineries that we had never been to before. There were some great photo opportunities, but I didn't bring my camera. Oh well.

This photo was actually taken before that, just one day after last week's photo.

This is why I love astronomy.

Here is the story: A couple of weeks ago, astronomers were tracking a well known comet called Comet Holmes. It is well known because it comes into the inner solar system quite regularly, every 7 years or so. Usually though, it is too dim to be seen with the naked eye, so that's why you have probably never heard of it before.

However, this time something very strange happened. Comet Holmes seemed to experience a violent explosion, and blew a bunch of dust and ice into space. As this cloud of particles expanded all around the comet, it became brighter. One million times brighter.

It has done this before, apparently... but not since 1892, when it was first discovered... and even then it didn't get nearly as bright as it is now.

So, on the evening of November 1st, after coming back from the movies (Angela and I saw "Into The Wild" and "The Darjeeling Limited"), I noticed that the sky was relatively clear. I knew that the comet was near the constellation Perseus, but to be honest I didn't know where Perseus was. So, I decided to just look around and see if I could see a fuzzy blob anywhere. Sure enough, it only took me a few seconds to find the comet hovering above my house.

I went inside and grabbed my camera, put on my telephoto lens, and set up my tripod on the front lawn. This was the best photo I got. I actually took a series of photos that I was going to stack together, but I think the barrel retracted slightly as I was taking the photos, so the zoom level wound up being different on each photo. (Next time I will bring some tape.)

So that's why I love astronomy... you never know when you are going to look up at the right time and see something amazing right from your front yard.

By the way: You can see a star showing through the comet's icy halo. That star is HD 23104, in case you were wondering.

Technical details: This photo was taken with my Rebel XT + EF 70-300mm IS lens at ISO 1600, f/5.6, for 5 seconds. I used a tripod, so I had image stabilization turned off.


Cool picture.  Thanks for the reminder.  With all the things going on I had
totally forgotten about Comet Holmes.  
-- Aravind at 12:36am, Saturday November 10, 2007 EST

That's awesome! 
-- Alix at 1:22pm, Sunday November 11, 2007 EST

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