antisolar

Rainbows and Rays over Bryce Canyon : What’s happening over Bryce Canyon? Two different optical effects that were captured in one image taken earlier this month. Both effects needed to have the Sun situated directly behind the photographer. The nearest apparition was the common rainbow, created by sunlight streaming from the setting sun over the head of the photographer, and scattering from raindrops in front of the canyon. If you look closely, even a second rainbow appears above the first. More rare, and perhaps more striking, are the rays of light that emanate out from the horizon above the canyon. These are known as anticrepuscular rays and result from sunlight streaming though breaks in the clouds, around the sky, and converging at the point 180 degrees around from the Sun. Geometrically, this antisolar point must coincide with the exact center of the rainbows. Located in Utah, USA, Bryce Canyon itself contains a picturesque array of ancient sedimentary rock spires known as hoodoos. via NASA

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Comas and Tails of Comets

The generally unexpected and sometimes spectacular appearance of comets have triggered the interest of many people throughout history. A bright comet can easily be seen with the naked eye.

Comets are usually not discovered until after a coma or tail has formed. Depending on the apparent size of the coma or tail, a comet can be very bright. Some comets have a tail extending more than 45˚ on the sky. The earliest records of comet observations date to ~6000BCE in China.

The smaller nucleus (rocky body) of a comet, often only a few kilometres in diameter, is usually hidden from view by the large coma, a cloud of gas and dust roughly 10 to the power of 4-10 to the power of 5 km in diameter and not seen with the naked eye, a large hydrogen coma, between 1 and 10 million km in extent, which surrounds the nucleus and visible gas/dust coma. Two tails are often visible, both in the antisolar direction: a curved yellowish dust tail and a straight ion tail, usually of a blue colour.

Comets are usually inert at large heliocentric distances and only develop a coma and tails when they get closer to the sun. When the sublimating gas evolves off the surface of a comet’s nucleus, dust is dragged along. The gas and dust form a comet’s coma and hide the nucleus from view. Most comets are discovered after the coma has formed when they are bright enough to be seen with relatively small telescopes.

~ JM

Image Credit

More Info:
Comets, NASA
Coma