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ISON and Encke in STEREO: Nov19-23, 2013
Comet ISON (the brighter of the two) and Comet Encke, can be seen racing through the solar system here, both with tails strongly interacting with the solar wind! CLICK TO ANIMATE! [Image Credit: Karl Battams/NRL/NASA/CIOC]I don't have much time tonight to make a cool looking animation with labels and things as I still need to prepare to head out for my week at Kitt Peak. However, I did have time to at least create an animated gif with the latest images I was able to get my hands on! These images span Nov 20 18:05 UT to Nov 23 22:49UT with an image about once an hour.
If you recall from my last blog post, there was a coronal mass ejection (CME) on the way and we wondered if it would hit the comets. Our question has been sort of answered... The CME can be seen coming towards the comets but then... argh! We had a data gap! (Put the tin foil down! Data gaps happen all the time, and they're temporary.) We pick up the sequence a few hours after the CME has passed but there doesn't appear to be any major interaction happening so I suspect they didn't get hit, or if they did then it wasn't a directly blow.
Both of these comets are directly in the line of fire for CMEs, though, so hopefully we do get a big one in the next couple of days.
For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen that earlier on I mentioned that there were now three comets visible in this field of view. That is indeed the case, with the third being C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy). I didn't include that comet in this movie as it's kind of small and unimpressive and tucked away in the corner. You can see what I mean in this full-resolution frame.
I don't really have much analysis to add tonight beyond what I said last time.
The tails are clearly interacting strongly with the solar wind, with ISON perhaps in a slightly faster stream than Encke. We have had several questions from folks confused about the geometry here, so I urge you to take a look at the animations here that illustrate ISON's orbit relative to the STEREO-A spacecraft. Comet Encke isn't on that plot but it's near to Mercury also.
Tomorrow I will be in transit for nearly all of the day so, aside from the occasional Tweet and a new Image of the Week feature (which you absolutely need to check back for tomorrow as it's fabulous!), you might not hear too much from me until Tuesday. I'll do what I can, though, and hopefully Matthew will chime in with some thoughts on here.
Keep up-to-date on the latest ISON and sungrazing comet news via my @SungrazerComets Twitter feed. All opinions stated on there, and in my blog posts, are my own.