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Measuring the Size of ISON's Nucleus: Pixelization

26 Aug 2013, 08:00 UTC
Measuring the Size of ISON's Nucleus: Pixelization
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Welcome to guest poster Dr. Jian-Yang Li. Dr. Li is a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and a comet expert. His interests include photometry of asteroids and cometary nuclei, physical properties of cometary nuclei, and the connection between comets and asteroids. His expertise is in photometric analysis, especially from high-resolution data obtained from the ground and returned by spacecraft. He is one of the first few astronomers who applied disk-resolved photometric analysis to cometary nuclei, and found possible connections between the photometric properties and cometary activities. Dr. Li has been actively involved in Deep Impact and Dawn missions.

We observed Comet ISON with the Hubble Space Telescope on April 10. One important goal of our observations was to measure the size of its nucleus. We need to know the size in order to predict what will likely happen this Thanksgiving when the comet goes through the extremely hostile environment near the Sun, baked by the Sun’s heat to thousands of degrees and tossed by the Sun’s strong gravity.

It is relatively straightforward to measure the size of an asteroid. By gauging the brightness of an asteroid in an image, one can calculate how large the asteroid ...

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