Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels: an image (3 Jan. 2019)

On 2 Jan. 2019, a couple of observers reported that comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels showed a sudden change in its inner coma. The day before, our images showed nothing strange, so we scheduled some follow-up observations and we spotted this unusual shape.

Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels: 3 Jan. 2019

Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels: 3 Jan. 2019

The image above comes from the average of seven, 120-seconds exposures, unfiltered, remotely collected with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at the Virtual Telescope Project. The robotic telescope tracked the apparent motion of comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels, so stars left trails on the background. The image scale is 1.2″/pixel.

There was a strong wind and clouds made impossible to capture more images, so seeing was poor. Nonetheless, images show the “comma” feature in the coma pretty well. It resembles something seen in the outbursting comet 29P. I did hear about this unusual shape by Kunihiro Shima (Japan) and Neil Norman (UK).

Just for convenience, here it is the aspect of the inner coma two days before, with the same imaging setup.

Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels: 1 Jan. 2019

Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels: 1 Jan. 2019

In August, this comet had a bright outburst: who knows what is happening now.

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