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SBU Astronomy Professor Leads International Team in Hawaii to Capture Intricacy of Comet Lovejoy’s Tail


Subaru Telescope’s Image Captures the Intricacy of Comet Lovejoy’s Tail


Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) image by Suprime Cam on Subaru Telescope, taken on December 3, 2013 in Hawaii Time. Wavelength is at 450 nm (B-band), with 180 seconds exposure. Photo credit: NAOJ, data process: Masafumi Yagi (NAOJ)

Team members successfully captured the detailed image of Comet Lovejoy. To the left is the PI of the observation Dr. Jin Koda (Stony Brook University, New York). Dr. Masafumi Yagi of NAOJ who promptly analyzed the data was at the headquarters of NAOJ in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan. He participated in the observation via videoconference system and his computer.

BIG ISLAND, HAWAII and STONY BROOK, N.Y., December 5, 2013-An international team of Astronomers Led by SBU Prof. Jin Koda used Suprime-Cam, Subaru Telescope’s wide-field, prime-focus camera, to capture an image of the intricate flow of Comet Lovejoy’s (C/2013 R1) ion tail.

The instrument’s combination of a wide field of view and high spatial resolution provides a clear delineation of the complex, wiggling streams in the comet’s tail. At the time of this observation, at around 5:30 am on December 3, 2013 (Hawaii Standard Time), Comet Lovejoy was 50 million miles (80 million km) distant from Earth and 80 million miles (130 million km) away from the Sun.

Jin Koda

Comet Lovejoy was discovered in September this year (2013). At dawn on October 31, 2013, Subaru Telescope succeeded in capturing its image, which showed dust jets streaming from its Nucleus.

Although Comet ISON (C2012 S1) did not survive its closest encounter with the Sun (its perihelion) at the end of November 2013, Comet Lovejoy’s visibility has been increasing in the eastern sky. The current image adds even more data about this newly-discovered comet. The variety of approaches used to image and analyze Comet Lovejoy will lead to a much clearer view of its detailed structure.

“Subaru Telescope offers a rare combination of large telescope aperture and a wide-field camera. This enabled us to capture a detailed look at the nucleus while also photogenically framing inner portions of Comet Lovejoy’s impressive ion tail,” commented a member of the observation team.

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