Archive for May 2nd, 2011

Comet Elenin may be brighter than expected

A. Novichonok

Comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin) is becoming one of the most observed long-period comets. At the moment, the overall number of CCD camera observations is approaching 1300, while the number of CCD observations of comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) never exceeded 1000. Of course, for the most part that reflects the growth and accessibility of modern CCD cameras. I have underscored this fact for the conspiracy theorists who are saying that Comet Elenin is impossible to see in the sky and all its observations are being kept secret. Of course that is not the case, but let’s return to news about the comet.

On the basis of quality estimates of the comet’s brightness, the photometric model of comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin) has been revised by Artem Novichonok. According to the new prediction, the comet may reach a brightness of mag. 4 near perihelion, and that is without accounting for the effect of forward scattering, when the comet is directly between the Earth and the Sun. Tiny icy dust particles will scatter light passing through them, and the comet’s brightness, which we can observe on images taken by SOHO’s space coronagraph, will increase. The comet could reach mag. 0 or even brighter! True, such a sharp increase in brightness will be very brief, and when the comet comes out of conjunction with the Sun and we can see it in the morning sky, its brightness will have already returned to mag. 4-4.5. The comet will remain visible to the unaided eye until the beginning of November.

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