Last weekend, in a historic astronomical event, fragment C of comet Schwassmann–Wachmann 3 passed by the famous Ring Nebula (M57). (AiG has been covering the comet’s breakup and its relevance to the creation/evolution debate—see The Tale of a Comet.)
As you will see in time-lapse photography taken by AiG astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle, this fragment of the comet is seen streaking in front of the Ring Nebula. (The Ring Nebula is a cloud of glowing hydrogen gas that is expelled from a star. The star has collapsed into a “white dwarf,” which is faintly visible in the center of the Ring.)
Comet Schwassmann–Wachmann 3 has been making the news recently because it has fragmented into multiple pieces, two of which are currently visible using a small telescope. The fragment in this image is the brightest one. Such fragmentation events underscore the short lifespan of comets—consistent with the recent origin of the solar system.
This image was taken here at the AiG ministry in Northern Kentucky (and not far from the planetarium under construction at this site). Dr. Lisle used AiG’s Meade Deep Sky Imager Pro II, viewing through our 12-inch Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope (Meade LX200 GPS). The first frame was taken by Dr. Lisle around 11:00 pm last Sunday. He took several other images over the next hour, which we have compiled into a time-lapse animation file showing the motion of the comet as it flew by the Ring Nebula. We think it makes for some incredible viewing.