This winter (since mid December,
2004) a comet has been drifting across the sky. I have been
photographing this comet at almost every opportunity, which have been
rare due to inclement weather. The skies cleared Saturday,
January 8 for this magnificent photo of the comet near the
pleiades. The image has been enhanced to accent the colors.
Notice that the stars in the Pleiades are mostly quite blue and the
comet is rather "plain" or "greenish". Some stars in teh field
are red. The Pleiades is a very young star cluster, and the stars
are very massive (much more massive than the sun). As a result
the nuclear reactions in the surfaces of the Pleiades' stars are much
hotter (about 10,000 K) whereas the sun is about 6000 K. The
comet (the fuzzy blob in upper right) is merely sunlight reflected by
the dust of the comet. The color of the comet dust cloud
represents the color temperature of the sun which represents all
colors, but more of the green than red and blue.
The image on the right represents a cropped and enlarged portion of the
original image, and more color enhancements. Notice that the
comet is definitely a "fuzz-ball" compared to the stellar images.
More information on comet Macholz may be found at the Sky and Telescope website: http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/comets/article_1396_1.asp
The comet will be visible for about another month (until early
posted here were photographed using an inexpensive digital camera
(Canon A60) photographed through a makeshift telescope consisting of a
125 mm FL telephoto lens and a 40 mm FL eyepiece to give a
magnification of 3.12. The camera zoom lens looks through the
telescope at 3X giving a total magnification of about 9.4 - about
what one sees through binoculars. The makeshift telescope was
mounted piggy-back onto a clock-drive telescope so that 20 images at 15
seconds each could be obtained and stacked to give the result shown
here. The main clock-drive telescope has too large a
magnification to have photographed both the Pleiades and the
comet. A photo of the makeshift telescope and piggy-back mount is
shown at right.