Comet McNaught - A First Light Present for STEREO

Jan 19, 2007
Comet McNaught - A First Light Present for STEREO
This image of Comet McNaught comes from the Heliospheric Imager on one of the STEREO spacecraft, taken Jan. 11, 2007. To the right is the comet nucleus, so bright it saturates the detector creating a bright vertical band in the image. The comet's dynamic tails extend up and to the left. Credit: NASA

This image of Comet McNaught comes from the Heliospheric Imager on one of the STEREO spacecraft, taken Jan. 11, 2007. To the right is the comet nucleus, so bright it saturates the detector creating a bright vertical band in the image. The comet's dynamic tails extend up and to the left.

The lowest of the tails is the ion tail, which points along the direction of the solar wind. Above that is the comet's dust tail pushed out by radiation pressure from the sun. The tail is highly structured, probably the result of dynamic activity in the comet itself.

Although the two STEREO observatories have been turning on their instruments since mid-December, the Heliospheric Imagers on this spacecraft turned on for the first time on Jan. 11 - just in time to see the spectacular Comet McNaught.

The Heliospheric Imagers are designed to observe the space between the Sun and the Earth in order to watch solar storms as they head our way. But here the Heliospheric Imagers are also able to observe Comet McNaught as it heads towards the sun.

STEREO's SECCHI/HI instrument was built by a consortium led by the Naval Research Laboratory (USA), and includes the University of Birmingham (UK), Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (UK) and Centre Spatiale de Liege (Belgium). Image credit: NASA

Source: NASA, by Rani Gran

Explore further: First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet confirmed: It may have liquid water

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fire vs. ice: The science of ISON at perihelion

Dec 11, 2013

After a year of observations, scientists waited with bated breath on Nov. 28, 2013, as Comet ISON made its closest approach to the sun, known as perihelion. Would the comet disintegrate in the fierce heat ...

Comet ISON vs. the solar storm

Nov 25, 2013

In 2007, astronomers were amazed when a solar storm hit Comet Encke. NASA STEREO spacecraft watched as a CME (coronal mass ejection) struck the comet head on and ripped off its tail.

Comet Lemmon, Now in STEREO

Apr 25, 2013

An icy interloper was in the sights of a NASA spacecraft this past weekend. Comet 2012 F6 Lemmon passed through the field of view of NASA's HI2A camera as seen from its solar observing STEREO Ahead spacecraft. ...

Heliophysics nugget: Sungrazing comets as solar probes

Dec 06, 2012

(Phys.org)—Heliophysics nuggets are a collection of early science results, new research techniques and instrument updates that further our attempt to understand the sun and the dynamic space weather system that surrounds ...

Recommended for you

A sharp eye on Southern binary stars

7 hours ago

Unlike our sun, with its retinue of orbiting planets, many stars in the sky orbit around a second star. These binary stars, with orbital periods ranging from days to centuries, have long been the primary ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

8 hours ago

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

11 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...