Resources: Comet worksheet

Terminology: CometComaComet TailPerihelion and AphelionAngular Resolution

Tutorials: Importing Images into MaxImCoordinates in MaxImFITS HeaderAligning and Animating ImagesStacking Images

Comet ISON, or Comet C/2012 S1, was a sun-diving comet originating from the Oort Cloud. It was discovered by two Russian scientists using a 15.7" reflecting telescope from the International Scientific Optical Network in September of 2012. The comet was active, meaning it had a tail, despite being 763 million km from the Sun in early 2013.

In November 2013, comet ISON neared the Sun and began to lose mass rapidly. In December 2013, astronomers determined that the comet had lost a significant amount of mass after passing by the Sun, and the comet was declared dead.


Learning Goals: This lab familiarizes students with the different properties of comets.

Suggested Observations: Several long exposures of a nearby comet - A list of currently visible comets can be found on the Minor Planet Center website.

Challenge: Your team will use observations of a comet to determine its size, speed, and tail orientation with respect to the Sun.