Friday, June 4, 2021

Beyond the Norfolk pine

A large number of astronomical objects (and more) are visible in this stunning long exposure photograph taken from Fergusson Park in New Zealand.

In fact, an imposing Norfolk pine, originally from the namesake Australian island, stands out in the foreground. This tree can be useful for identifying the main astronomical objects present in the image. Just above its tip, in fact, a beautiful conjunction between the Moon and Venus is visible, while between its branches on the right we can see Jupiter.




The real protagonist of this photo, however, is not a planet, but comet C/2014 Q1, visible to the left of the pine.

Discovered in August 2014, C/2014 Q1 is a long-period comet that makes one revolution around the Sun in more than 40,000 years. C/2014 Q1 passed to perihelion in July 2015 and at the same time reached a minimum apparent magnitude of +3. Unfortunately the comet was not visible from the northern hemisphere, but was well observed by amateurs astronomers in the southern hemisphere. Even from these regions, however, the comet remained visible for a short time: by mid-July it had become too faint to be seen with the naked eye, while in August it could only be observed through a telescope. 

Credit: Amit Kamble (Auckland Astronomical Society). 

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