09 November 2010

Updates on comet Ikeya-Mukarami

All eyes are now on the newly found comet Ikeya-Mukarami (C/2010 V1).
The comet is now located in Virgo and is shining with a brightness of Mag 9 (which means it will be visible through telescopes and not be visible to the naked eye). It currently has a 3' coma (about 1/10th the size of the full moon).

The most recently available orbit indicates that the comet has already passed perihelion, and is just now emerging into the morning sky following conjunction with the sun. It spends the next several months climbing higher into the morning sky, until it reaches opposition at the end of May 2011. A "normal" brightness behavior would suggest that the comet could be visually detectable for a long time, fading only to about 11th magnitude by the time it is at opposition.

There is, however, more and more evidence that indicates the comet has recently undergone an outburst. Observer Alan Hale notes that on November 8 it appeared about half a magnitude fainter, and was distinctly less condensed, than it was on the 4th.

It is thus somewhat likely that it might fade away fairly quickly. Because the comet is traveling in a low-inclination direct orbit it is also possible that it is a short-period object, and if that turns out to be true it is conceivable that it might be found identical to some comet observed in the past.

The comet is currently located just over a degree south of Saturn. According to latest orbital elements, here are the predictions:

Its elongation will slowly increase over the coming days.
It will travel to the east-southeast through Virgo
It will pass some two degrees northeast of the bright star Spica by third week of November.
It crosses into Libra shortly after mid-December and then into northern Scorpius during the latter part of January 2011.
It will reach its stationary point in early April
It will reach Opposition by end of May.

A "normal" brightness behavior would suggest only a half-magnitude or so of fading from its present brightness by the end of 2010 and a still relatively bright 11th magnitude when the comet is near opposition, however the outburst scenario that is starting to look increasingly likely suggests a fairly rapid fading during the coming weeks, and it may well be beyond the range of visual detectability by the end of this year.

Here are some pics of this fresh comet...

The comet:


A short video of the evolution of the comet over the last few days:

More info on the comet here:


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