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New Outburst of Comet 29P

Some astronomers consider Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann to be one of the most bizarre objects in the entire Solar System. It sits far from the Sun, out beyond Jupiter, and occupies a near-circular orbit of the Sun. In that environment, the nucleus of the comet experiences a relatively uniform exposure to solar radiation - unlike all short-period comets which are much more strongly heated near perihelion compared with their time near aphelion. Yet 29P exhibits several outbursts each year, and the latest one of 2016 (its 3rd) has just taken place on June 06.5 +/-0.4, when it brightened from 16.4R to 14.5R: a 6-fold increase in brightness in just a few hours.

Here is an image taken with a 2.0-m Faulkes Telescope located on Haleakala, Hawaii showing the expanding coma, which has developed after just 2 days:

When the image is processed using a rotational gradient filter (IRIS software), it is possible to see detail and the directional nature of the outflows, which originate from an explosive, eruptive event, as shown here:

Observers are encouraged to monitor the development of the coma during the coming days.

It is possible for this outburst to trigger a subsequent one. We shall see.

Richard Miles

2016 June 09 16:25UT

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