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4/26/06 Comet 73P Fragment B

This interesting comet began breaking up as it approached the Sun. It broke into 4 main components and numerous other smaller ones. Several images were taken by professionals and amateurs with the comet looking double headed or with multiple fragments within a single field of view. It also made a very close pass by the fabulous Ring Nebula (M57). Unfortunately weather prevented me from getting any images of it passing M57 or of it breaking up.

This image is a composite. I created the background by subtracting out the comet and aligning on the stars. I only got a total of 8x1 minute unguided shots through each filter - clear, red, green and blue. I then aligned 1 frame from each filter by subtracting out the stars and aligning on the comet nucleus. Finally I merged the 2 images to produce the final color composite. It was a fairly labor intensive process, hampered by the extreme lack of signal and the fast movement of the comet. The comet's closest pass by Earth on this aparition is May 13, 2006. As it gets closer to Earth, the apparent speed of it's motion increases. It moved quite a bit while I was taking the subs for this shot. An animation of the comet's motion which I made using the luminance frames from this session can be seen here.