Monday, December 13, 2010

More Images of 596 Scheila and its Coma

Asteroid 596 Scheila taken with the Global-rent-a-scope GRAS-02 instrument at astronomical twilight on 13 December from Mayhill, New Mexico. The image is a stack of 5x60 second exposures, SUMMED in ImageJ and despeckeled.

Well, it's not the best image of Scheila, but you can see the coma around Scheila. I needed more images to stack, but as I could only start imageing right on astronomical twilight, I couldn't get a bigger stack. The twilight already contaminated the images so the result was less than impressive.

Why did I wait until astronomical twilight? I was at the National Australian Science Communicators Annual General Meeting (being a councilor for the SA ASC chapter), and couldn't start my observing run until it was over.

Anyway, if you want to see some good images of the comet-like coma around 596 Scheila, here is Martin Moberly's image taken on G-11, J-F Soulier's images, W-T Hsu's images, and Joseph Brimacombe has some amazing animations here and here, as well as some great images.

Scheila, a 113 Km diameter rock, joins a growing list of asteroids like 3200 Phaethon, which have shown comet-like characteristics. Whether this is a true outburst of buried cometary material, or the results of an impact, remains to be determined. Astro Bob has a longer discussion of what this outburst means.


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