Physics Photo of the Week
The week before Halloween, 2007, a little-known comet suddenly
became a million times brighter. For some unknown reason, the
comet must have "exploded" and released great quantities of gas and
dust to become highly visible. The comet viewed from Earth
resembles a great greenish pumpkin-shaped blob. Apparently any
tail is pointing away from Earth due to the solar pressure.
The Great Pumpkin - Comet Holmes
This telescopic photo was taken with the assistance of First Year
Seminar students Jenna Blakley and
Jake Lyerly on October
29. The color image was obtained by photographing through three
filters: red, green, and blue, then the images were combined to display
the respective images in color. There are not many stars visible
due to the overwhelming brightness of the comet.
You can view this comet easily
with the naked eye. Currently after 10:00 pm high in the eastern
sky the constellation Perseus can be seen as a triangle below the
familiar "W" shaped Cassiopaeia and the Pleiades cluster. The
comet looks like a star below the brightest star in Perseus.
Binoculars reveals the fuzzy appearance of the comet.
It is expected that the comet will remain relatively bright for several
weeks. The dust has no place to go except to dissipate into the
vacuum of outer space. According to Astronomy
Picture of the Day for Oct. 29 the comet is currently receding from
the Sun and lies about as far away as Jupiter. Because of the
suddenness of the eruption of the vast quantities of dust and gas, it
is expected that this ball will continue to grow larger (perhaps
fainter) in the coming weeks. We'll post new photos periodically
at another web
site for the results of student astronomical photographs.
This week's Physics Photo of the Week is published a day earlier
for two reasons: Halloween celebration and the fact that I am out of
town on Friday.
Photo of the
published weekly during the academic year on Fridays by the Warren
Wilson College Physics
Department. These photos feature an interesting phenomena in
the world around us. Students, faculty, and others are invited to
submit digital (or film) photographs for publication and
explanation. Atmospheric phenomena are especially welcome.
Please send any photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
here to see the Physics Photo
the Week Archive.
Observers are invited to submit
digital photos to: