Spitzer eyes Comet 73P in a dramatic infrared picture

Comet 73P

(Click the image for a larger view)

The SpaceFlight Now website is highlighting this dramatic view of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (73P) taken of the last few days by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Space.com also presented the image, along with some links for animations and finding the comet. Unfortunately, the comet is moving quickly toward the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, and the imminent full Moon is washing out the sky until just before dawn. Those of us in New England are really out of luck, since we’ve been clouded in for several days, with no sign of clearing in the next nine days.

The picture isn’t a “star trail”-type picture of one object, it is a “still” shot that shows 45 of the 58 known comet fragments. A larger version is available here.

Alas, if we get any dramatic meteor shower from all this cometary dust, it won’t be until 2022. If not then, then perhaps 2049. Hopefully I’ll be around and able to enjoy it!

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