Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2016 June 17
Explanation: Now approaching our fair planet this Comet PanSTARRS (C/2013 X1) will come closest on June 21-22, a mere 5.3 light-minutes away. By then its appearance low in northern hemisphere predawn skies (high in the south), will be affected by the light of a nearly Full Moon, though. Still the comet's pretty green coma is about the apparent size of the Full Moon in this telescopic portrait, captured on June 12 from the southern hemisphere's Siding Spring Observatory. The deep image also follows a broad, whitish dust tail up and toward the left in the frame, sweeping away from the Sun and trailing behind the comet's orbit. Buffeted by the solar wind, a fainter, narrow ion tail extends horizontally toward the right. On the left edge, the brightest star is bluish Iota Picis Austrini. Shining at about fourth magnitude, that star is visible to the unaided eye in the constellation of the Southern Fish.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.