Comet C/2006 M4 (SWAN) is a non-periodic comet discovered in late June 2006 by Robert D. Matson of Irvine, California and Michael Mattiazzo of Adelaide, South Australia in publicly available images of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). These images were captured by the Solar Wind ANisotropies (SWAN) Lyman-alpha all-sky camera on board the SOHO. The comet was officially announced after a ground-based confirmation by Robert McNaught (Siding Spring Survey) on July 12

Although perihelion was Sept 28, 2006, the comet flared dramatically from seventh magnitude to fourth magnitude on October 24, 2006, becoming visible with the naked eye.

Comet C/2006 M4 is in a hyperbolic trajectory (with an osculating eccentricity larger than 1) during its passage through the inner solar system. After leaving the influence of the planets, the eccentricity will drop below 1 and it will remain bound to the Solar System as an Oort cloud comet.

Given the extreme orbital eccentricity of this object, different epochs can generate quite different heliocentric unperturbed two-body best-fit solutions to the aphelion distance (maximum distance) of this object. For objects at such high eccentricity, the Suns barycentric coordinates are more stable than heliocentric coordinates. Using JPL Horizons, the barycentric orbital elements for epoch 2013-May-14 generate a semi-major axis of about 1300 AU and a period of about 47,000 years.

The November 22nd, 2006 Black River Astronomical Society Impromptu Star Party

I'd like to thank John R for inviting us all out to last night's impromptu Star Party.  The skies were fabulous. The milky way and even the dark rift were easily visible.  The sky was steady and seeing was superb.

In addition to John & I, Tim H, Lee L, Dave G and Randy B showed up, and we  thoroughly enjoyed the frigid November skies until even the bravest of us finally gave in to the cold and called it a night at about 11pm.

Comet Swan looked very nice in John's 10". Working together, we opened up the Nielson Observatory, set up a digital camera (Canon 30D w/75-300mm lens) on the 14" Celestron and captured the  following image of this little emerald jewel minutes before it sunk into the side of the building and oblivion..........

Here's a blowup of the Comet. We were all surprised at the large apparent size and brightness of the comet. It was a bright emerald green and appeared somewhat  oblong and rectangular in shape.


My 2 clear nights in October, 2006

October 8-9th, 2006. 2 nights off and predicted clear skies !

2 comets in the sky!

2 passes of the ISS!

This promised to be a spectacular observing session.

First, the ISS. Recently NASA added additional solar panels to the ISS and reports stated that  passovers
would be really spectacular.  AND THEY WERE !!!

Here's the proof. On the 8th ISS passed thru the Big Dipper at 6:13am

On the 9th ISS passed slowly across the northern horizon at 6:45am

And lastly, my meager images of Comet Swan.

A wide angle view. Click to enlarge.

Here's a shot of yours truly set up at Wellington, Ohio enjoying a crisp autumn night and a cup of coffee.

My home brewed power supply really worked well. The first night was extremely wet. The SCT was practically useless. I used the hair dryer on it every 1/2 hour throughout the night. I used the hair dryer twice on the newtonian secondary. The primary didn't get wet at all !

At the end of the first night the battery had only dropped to 11.8 volts. At the end of the second, dryer night the battery only dropped to 12.4 volts.

Comet Swan proved to be a particularly frustrating Comet for me.  I was plauged with equipment problems throughout the aparition. My New Meade Starfinder mount with the 8" f/7.5 Newtonian was simply not sufficient for astrophotography.  My Meade 8" f/10 SCT blew a drive motor. Actually the drive motor didn't blow. It failed mechanically.  I recently tore the mount apart and found the cheap little gears Meade uses in the motor had somehow "unmeshed." I realigned the little gears and soldered the motor back together but it soon failed again.  I attempted some hand guided shots at prime focus to no avail. 

So, the only shots I ended up getting were short exposures using telephoto lenses.  As a result I determined to purchase a large sturdy reliable mount that could handle an 8" newt and/or sct.  I selected a Losmandy G-11 but did not get it until after the comet was gone. The good news is that I'll  have the equipment to shoot the NEXT Comet to fly by!

 Swan maintained a bright green color throughout it's apparition. I got my first shot deep in morning twilight on October 10th.

My second shot came just after dusk on October 21st

I didn't get another opportunity to shoot the comet until Novermber 22nd. Here's a closeup view.