Comet McNaught Over Paranal
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Comet McNaught Over Paranal

August 22, 2007

Comet McNaught, the Great Comet of 2007, is no more visible for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. It does put an impressive show in the South, however, and observers in Chile, in particular at the Paranal Observatory, were able to capture amazing images, including a display reminiscent of an aurora!

Comet C/2006 P1 was discovered in August 2006 by Robert McNaught with the 0.5-m Uppsala Schmidt telescope in the course of the Siding Spring Survey (Australia). It is one of 29 comets discovered by this telescope since early 2004 in a project to systematically search the southern skies for asteroids, or comets, that can pass close to the Earth. At that time, the comet was only a very faint, barely diffuse object, about 50,000 times fainter than what the unaided eye can see.

However, as the comet came closer to the Sun, it brightened rapidly, in such a way as to become easily visible with the unaided eye in early January 2007, becoming brighter than Comet Hale.

The extended tail of Comet McNaught, seen from Paranal, observed in the evening of 18 January 2007, when the comet was setting behind the Pacific Ocean. The planet Venus is visible in the lower right of the image.

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