Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Comet 96 P Machholz 1 Returns

Comet Machholz 1 at perihelion on 14 July, 2012The view from STEREO B on 14 July, both imagess generated in Celestia.

Comet 96P/Machholz 1 is now brightening in the early morning sky in the Southern hemisphere. It's magnitude 11, and just under 30 degrees above the horizon in Eriandius at the moment, so you need a decent scope which can point close to the horizon to see it.

It will very rapidly be lost to Earth bound View as it whips around the Sun closer than Mercury. But It will be visible from at least one spacecraft. The comet should be visible from the SOHO LASCO C3 instrument Between July 12-17, and according to my projections, it should be visible from both STEREO A and B between July 13-15. It may get as bright as magnitude 2.

 For some stunning STEREO images from the 2007 perihelion, go see Comet Al's blog.

As usual, I've made a Celestia file for Comet Machholz, just copy the text below into a file called Machhholz.ssc then save it into the extras folder and Robert is your avuncular relative.

For Stellarium 10.6 and up, just use the solar system plugin to download Machholz orbital elements.

==============>8 cut here===Machholz.ssc===>8 cut here============
 "Machholz 1:96P" "Sol"
Class "comet" # Just copying the data for Halley
Mesh "halley.cmod"
Texture "asteroid.jpg"
Radius 3 # best guess at maximum semi-axis
MeshCenter [ -0.338 1.303 0.230 ]

Epoch 2456060.5 #2012-May-13
Period 5.2809388447549  
SemiMajorAxis 3.032508014411316
Eccentricity 0.9591780641569885
Inclination 58.29867634073911
AscendingNode 94.32408165126535
ArgOfPericenter 14.75604312882846
MeanAnomaly 348.2820814381255

# Again, this data is copied straight from the ssc files for Halleys’ Comet
# chaotic rotation, imperfectly defined:
# this version from "The New Solar System", 4th Edition; Eds.
# JK Beatty, CC Petersen, A Chaikin
Period 170 # 7.1 day axial rotation period
Inclination 66
PrecessionPeriod 3457004.12 # 3.7 day precession period

Albedo 0.8