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Solar System and Atmospheric Phenomena

Minor Planet Tautenburg C/2001 Q4 NEAT Churyumov-Gerasimenko Hyakutake HaleBopp Benett Earth's moon Laser Beam Thunderstorm Aurora Borealis

Minor Planet Tautenburg
The Minor Planet Tautenburg (planetoid No. 2424) is the first Minor Planet discovered at Tautenburg Observatory and numbered by the Minor Planet Center. Planetoids can easily be found on long-exposed plates, since their images are stroke-like instead of star-like due to their relative movement with respect to the stars during the exposure. On Tautenburg photographic Schmidt plates (taken from 1960 to 1995) more than 5000 Minor Planets have been found and measured. Among them are more than 3100 new objects. So far (24.10.2006), 523 of these Minor Planets have been numbered. Such absolutely confirmed objects can be named by the discoverer. The majority of the numbered Tautenburg objects is already named.
This plate was taken on November 2nd, 1973, at 21:21-22:06 UT. The displayed image is a tiny 0.06% fraction of the total plate area. The prominent galaxy in the lower part is PGC 5342, a 16th magnitude barred spiral about 700 million light years away. Image size: 0.073° x 0.094° (4.4' x 5.6')


Higher resolution image:
0.5" x 0.5" per pixel (63 kB)


C/2001 Q4 NEAT
The comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT was observed at the 20th of May 2004 with the CCD camera of the Tautenburg Schmidt telescope. At its discovery on Augst 24th 2001, this long-periodic comet was still very far away from the sun (10.1 AU, beyond the orbit of Saturn). In the following months the comet approached the Sun and reached a perihelion distance of 0.96 AU on May 15th 2004. During that time it had a brightness of about 3 magnitudes, i.e. 25 times fainter than Hale-Bopp. The diameter of the core of the comet is estimated to be 5-10 km, similar as the core of comet Halley. The streaming plasma tail (in the image directed to the right side of the lower boundary) reached in May 2004 a maximum length of about 6-7 Mio. km. The image also shows very nicely the extended gas envelope, which is symmetrically around the core. The light of this envelope is emission from gaseous carbon compounds. The image contains four colour images, which were built from different combinations of four single frames. These frames were taken with the filters B (blue), V (yellow-green), R (red) and I (infrared). The exposure times per single frame were about one minute. Each of these four images has a size of 0.17° x 0.17° (10.4' x 10.4').


Higher resolution image:
1.25" x 1.25" pro Pixel (159 kB)


Churyumov-Gerasimenko
The comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was observed in a cooperation with a research group at the DLR. The object is extremely faint and was exposed 36 minutes in the red pass-band to reveal faint structures. For comparison: The nucleus of the popular comet Hale-Bopp is 17 times larger in radius (~34 km), and the comet was one million times brighter. Image size: 0.19° x 0.19° (11.6' x 11.6')
The comet shown here is today the most probable new target for the european space mission Rosetta. The image taken at the 27th of March 2003 shows the comet at 2.6 AU distance from the sun and 1.7 AU distance from the Earth. The star trails emerge from the proper motion of the comet. During the observations, the comet moved away from the sun. During the next but one approach to the sun in 2015 it could be accompanied by the Rosetta spacecraft. From this mission, one expects information about chemical composition and properties of the comet. This will lead to conclusions about the history of our solar system.


Higher resolution image:
1.6" x 1.6" per pixel (48 kB)
0.8" x 0.8" per pixel (260 kB)


Hyakutake
The comet Hyakutake, discovered at the 30th of January in 1996, was observed in Tautenburg at the 26th of March 1996. One day earlier, the comets closest approach to the Earth occured (0.1 AU). Thus, Hyakutake is one of the comets comming nearest to our planet. The core of the Hyakutake has a radius of only 2.4 km. Nevertheless, the comet reached a brightness of 0 magnitudes (equivalent to the maximum brightness of the planet Saturn), because of its small distance to the Earth. At the image, the core is clearly surrounded by a diffuse coma of cyanid. Hyakutake has a very excentric orbit, hence, he will not come close to the sun for nearly 30000 years. The image shows the comet in the blue pass-band, the exposure time was 15 minutes.


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HaleBopp
The comet Hale-Bopp, here we show an image taken at the 8th of April in 1997, was the most spectacular and active comet since the 18th century. In the beginning of April 1997 he came closest to the Earth (1.4 AU). Hale-Bopp has a core radius of about 35 km. Anyway, he was 1.6 times brighter than Hyakutake, in spite of the significantly larger distance. The trail of Hale-Bopp was extended 20 degrees in the sky. This corresponds to a length of 150 Million km or the distance from Earth to Sun. The comet was discovered by the Americans Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp at the 23th July 1995, with independent observations. Similar to Hyakutake, Hale-Bopp will be far away from the inner solar system for a long time. Long periodic comets like Hale-Bopp have their origin in Oort's cloud, a spherical reservoir of comet cores, surrounding our solar system at a distance of ten to onehundred thousend AU. The image was obtained in the ultra-violet pass-band, and the exposure time was 18 minutes.


larger image: (75 kB)


Benett
The comet Bennett was observed in April 1970. At this time, he was 0.94 AU distant from the Earth and 0.77 AU from the sun. His brightness was 3.5 magnitudes, about 40 times fainter than Hale-Bopp at his maximum. The image shows Bennett in the ultra-violet pass-band with 30 minutes exposure time. Bennett was discovered at the 28th of December in 1969 with a brightness of 8.5 magnitudes. Subsequently he became quickly brighter and then (similarly quickly) fainter. The image shows clearly the structured, straight plasma trail, which forms through interaction of carbon monoxid ions with the solar wind. The carbon monoxide is released by sublimation of frozen material when the comet approaches the sun. Since comets still contain frozen carbon monoxide, their chemical structure must not have changed since the time of their formation. Hence, they are of great interest as remnants of the time of the solar system formation.


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Moon
The Earth's moon five days to full Moon. The large impact crater in the centre near the terminator (the border between the illuminated and the dark side) is called Copernicus. This crater is 97 km in diameter and 3.8 km deep. In the polar regions (bottom and top) further major impact craters are visible. The extended darker areas are called Mare (oceans). The picture was taken at the 15th of January in 1962 during the test phase of the telescope. Image size: 0.43° x 0.52 °


Higher resolution image:
3" x 3" per pixel (39 kB)


Laser Beam
In a cooperation with the German-French Teramobile Project a laser beam (maximum power 5 terawatt, minimum puls length 70 femtoseconds) was observed. Such laser pulses propagating in the earth's atmosphere form thin filaments with high intensity and lengths of several hundred meters through a balance of self-focusing and plasma defocusing. Whereas the actual laser emits in the red (800nm), the laser spectrum is broadened in the filaments at least from 250nm up to 4000nm. With this laser in connection with a powerful telescope it will be possible to perform detailed investigations of the earth's atmosphere. Image size: 0.55° x 0.55°


Higher resolution image:
2.5" x 2.5" per pixel (25 kB)
1.25" x 1.25" per pixel (98 kB)
Laser Beam
The upper colour image is a combination of CCD images taken in the blue, red and infrared bandpass. The structure in the center of the image can be explained by interaction of the laser beam with two cloud layers at 6 and 7.5km elevation. In the lower image the blue part was enhanced, to point out the structures the laser forms in the atmosphere. One can see a blue halo around the laser beam. For a better visibility the stars are removed. Image size: 0.55° x 0.55°.


Higher resolution image:
2.5" x 2.5" per pixel (40 kB)
1.25" x 1.25" per pixel (234 kB)


Thunderstorm
Snapshots from a thunderstorm. (Author: Christian Högner).


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Thunderstorm


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Thunderstorm


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Aurora Borealis
Aurora borealis. (Author: Christian Högner) .


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Aurora Borealis


Larger image (62 kB)