Friday, 26. October 2007
Comet Holmes Undergoes Huge Outburs
On Oct. 24, 2007, Comet Holmes shocked sky watchers with a spectacular eruption, brightening almost a million-fold from 17th to 2.5th magnitude in a matter of hours. The comet is now visible to the naked eye - even from light polluted cities - high in the northern sky. Look for a golden 2.5th magnitude fuzzball in the constellation Perseus after sunset.


The golden hue of Holmes' core is probably the color of sunlight scattered by comet dust, while the green fringe likely signifies an atmosphere rich in diatomic carbon and cyanogen (substances found in many green comets). There are reports that the fuzzball is expanding and taking on a lopsided shape - the first signs of a tail? Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor developments.

Comet 17P/Holmes Photo Gallery by SpaceWeather.


Comet Holmes, named for its 1892 discoverer, Edwin Holmes, is not your typical comet with a tail, said Tulsa Air and Space Museum planetarium director Chris Pagan. "Originally, the comet was nothing impressive," Pagan said. "It was pretty faint, but suddenly, it became very bright." Such a change is unusual for comets, and could have been caused by a large fracture, a breakup or a collision with an asteroid, Pagan said.
Comet Holmes gets an unexpected glow by Tulsa World.

A comet usually too faint to be seen with the naked eye has brightened by a factor of a million since Tuesday, suggesting its surface may have cracked open and expelled clouds of dust and gas. Astronomers are scrambling to observe the strange object, which is likely to fade in the coming days and weeks.
Comet 17P/Holmes, which orbits the Sun every seven years on a path that takes it from the distance of Jupiter's orbit to about twice that of Earth's, is usually 25,000 times too dim to be seen with the naked eye. But since 23 October, it has brightened by a million times and now resembles a bright yellow star.

Comet brightens mysteriously by a factor of a million by New Scientist Space.

From Florian Boyd, Palm Springs, California: "I think this is about the most amazing thing I've ever seen in the sky!"
Sudden Naked-Eye Comet Shocks the Astronomy World by Sky & Telescope.


UPDATE 16.11.07

Over the past three weeks, Comet Holmes' cloud of haze has spread out to a diameter of 900,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers), which is wider than the diameter of the sun, astronomers at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy noted this week. That's not unprecedented for a comet, but this cloud has such a spherical shape that it's easy to imagine the comet as an insubstantial, ghostly star haunting the constellation Perseus.

And Hubble Zooms In on Heart of Mystery Comet by Hubblesite.


See also: Incredible Comet Bigger than the Sun by
A comet that has delighted backyard astronomers in recent weeks after an unexpected eruption has now grown larger than the sun.
The sun remains by far the most massive object in the solar system, with an extended influence of particles that reaches all the planets. But the comparatively tiny Comet Holmes has released so much gas and dust that its extended atmosphere, or coma, is larger than the diameter of the sun.
Category: Astrology & Astronomy

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