COMET LINEAR X1: The sun isn’t the only thing exploding. Almost 450 million km from Earth, Comet C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) is having its own outburst. On Oct. 20th, amateur astronomers realized that the comet’s brightness had increased 100-fold and its morphology resembled that of exploding Comet 17P/Holmes in 2007. Follow-up images in recent nights seem to show jet-like structures in Comet LINEAR X1’s expanding atmosphere. Amateur astronomer Nick James of Chelmsford, UK, obtained these data on Oct. 26th:
Another set of images taken by James shows the comet’s atmosphere or “coma” expanding over a period of two days. “The coma’s diameter is increasing at a rate of 30 arcseconds per day,” says James. “At a distance of 2.95 AU this corresponds to 65,000 km/day or a little less than 1 km/s.” He made these observations using an 11-inch Celestron telescope.
Located in the constellation Coma Berenices, Comet LINEAR X1 rises in the east about an hour before the sun. The low altitude of the comet in morning twilight is a challenge, but because the comet is fairly bright, magnitude +8.5, it is still a relatively easy target for backyard telescopes equipped with digital cameras. Monitoring is encouraged! Resources: 3D orbit, ephemeris, sky map.