Comet Ikeya-Zhang: March - May 2002
Comet Ikeya-Zhang was discovered in February 2002. Prospects for a good display quickly shot up when it realized that it was probably a returning comet last seen in 1661. By perihelion in March it had brightened to naked eye visibility (+4) and was in the constellation of Pisces with a tail a few degrees in length. As the comet moved away from the sun, it came closer to earth, given observers a comet that stayed about magnitude +3.5 and an increasing tail length. By mid-April, the comet became circumpolar moving through Cassiopea and Cepheus. By mid-May, the comet turned south again and dove through Hercules heading for Virgo.
This photograph shows the comet on March 11, 2002 with a twisted tail and a major disconnection event visible at the top of the image. This image was requested Dr. Geraint H. Jones at JPL for a study on comet tail interactions with Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). Eventually, this image was used in combination with several other images taken on March 11th for a paper written by Dr. Jones and Dr. John C. Brandt, which published in the Geophysical Research Letters Volume 31 number 20. The twist in the Ion tail was caused by a CME on March 9th or 10th. I was honored to have been able to contribute in a small way to this scientific endeavor. Exposure time is 8 minutes using Kodak LE 400 film and a 200mm F2.8 lens.
This photograph was taken on April 1, 2002 through my 8" F5 telescope using FUJI 800G film and a 5 minute exposure (A lumicon deep sky filter was also used).
This photograph shows the comet on April 4, 2002 when it was near the galaxy M31. Unfortunately, clouds prevented a better exposure, which would have recorded the entire comet and galaxy. Exposure time was 4 minutes using a 135mm F2.8 lens and Fuji 400 film.
This photograph shows the comet on the same date with a 400mm F5.6 lens and a 4-minute exposure with Fuji 800 film.
Taken on April 6, 2002, this photograph shows Ikeya-Zhang with a 10-degree long Ion tail. Exposure time was 6 minutes using Fuji 400 film and a 135mm F2.8 lens. Note the proximity of the trees.
Also taken on April 6, 2002, this photograph shows Ikeya-Zhang in closeup. Exposure time was 6 minutes using Fuji 800 film and a 400mm F5.6 lens.
Taken on April 17, 2002, Ikeya-Zhang demonstrates a new ion tail that was more of 4-5 degree long spike. Note the dust tail has been more of a fan and not significant. Exposure time was 15 minutes using Kodak LE 400 film and a 200mm F2.8 lens. Note the nebulosity in Cepheus.
Another photograph taken on April 17, 2002, This photograph shows Ikeya-Zhang in the milky way. Exposure time was 4 minutes using Kodak LE 400 film and a 50mm F2 lens. The North American Nebula is to the lower right. Blue sky in the bottom left is due to advancing twilight as dawn approached.
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