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Astro Bob

Two Comets Pass In The Night And More Amazing Cosmic Sights

10 Sep 2019, 01:07 UTC
Two Comets Pass In The Night And More Amazing Cosmic Sights
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Lionel Majzik captured comets C/2018 N2 ASASSN (top) and 260P/McNaught and a few faint galaxies to boot in a single frame on Sept. 7. Both comets were faint, about magnitude 12.5, but they are slowly brightening. Lionel Majzik
Something very unusual happened during the wee hours of September 7. Two different comets appeared to almost cross paths in the sky. Despite appearances, the two objects weren’t physically close. Comet 260P/McNaught is very much in the foreground at a distance of about 56 million miles, while the look-a-like Comet C/2018 N2 ASASSN glowed from 238 million miles, more than four times further away.
They appeared closest in the early morning hours, separated by 20 arcminutes or about two-thirds the width of the full moon. Observers with 8-inch or larger telescopes would have seen both comets in the same field of view — a rare sight. I wish I’d been looking. Instead my eyes were fixed on the constellation Cepheus and its treasure trove of star clusters and double stars.
I love comets both for their beauty and their ever-changing appearance. You never know what to expect night to night. Some comets break up into smaller comets, while others have “outbursts” and ...

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