168P/Hergenrother – recent fragmentation event

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    Posted by Nick James at 21:09 on 2012 Nov 01

    This comet has recently been in outburst but, more excitingly, a fragmentation event has been observed in large telescopes. This was first seen by a team using the Faulkes Telescope (Giovanni Sostero, Nick Howes & Ernesto Guido):http://remanzacco.blogspot.it/2012/10/splitting-event-in-comet.htmlRichard Miles then reprocessed these images to show the fragment clearly:http://www.britastro.org/~rmiles/Documents/168P_20121022-26.pngI obtained an image using the 0.8-m Mt. Lemmon telescope (via Sierra Stars) on the morning of October 30:http://www.nickdjames.com/Comets/168p_20121030_ndj.jpgbut it doesn’t show the fragment. There does appear to be a bifurcation in the near-tail around 4 arcsec and p.a. 150 deg from the brightest pixel position which may be associated with this event but there is no obvious sign of the fragment itself.An image with the 3.5m WIYN telescope does show it clearly:http://podideployment.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/a-comet.htmlIt is unlikely that this will be visible in small telescopes since a high resolution and very good seeing is needed but it is definitely worth keeping this comet under observation.Nick.


    Posted by Nick James at 19:14 on 2012 Nov 02

    The WIYN blog image of the 168P fragment has been removed from their site but the Faulkes Telescope team have put it on their latest blog posting here:http://bit.ly/QZlt7hThis post includes some more recent images of the fragment taken with FTN. Richard Miles has processed these to show the features more clearly:http://www.britastro.org/~rmiles/Documents/168P_2012Nov02.pngI obtained an image last night with a much smaller telescope (Celestron 11) so there is no sign of the fragment as it is well below the resolution of that system. Even in that aperture the comet is an interesting object:http://www.nickdjames.com/Comets/168p_20121101_ndj.jpgNick.


    Posted by Denis Buczynski at 10:07 on 2012 Nov 03

    There has been further evidence of the break up of this comet with news of observations from the Mauna Kea in this press release. "Using the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, we have resolved that the nucleus of the comet has separated into at least four distinct pieces resulting in a large increasein dust material in its coma." http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-349Denis Buczynski


    Posted by Richard Miles at 16:08 on 2012 Nov 03

    Yes, it’s fascinating to watch and try to understand what is going on here. To better picture this I’ve analysed the key images including the jpegs shown recently from the WIYN and by JPL from Gemini North.You can find the result at:http://www.britastro.org/~rmiles/Documents/168P_Oct26-Nov2a.pngAlthough we use the term ‘fragment’ it is probably more accurate to use ‘condensation’ as those labelled ‘b’, ‘c’ and ‘d’ in the Figure are probably transitory in nature coming and going as lumps disintegrate releasing gas and dust. The main secondary body is ‘a’ and we shall see how long this persists in the coming weeks.

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