Click to see a larger image (Credit: Stefan Seip)

This lovely image captures two celestial beauties in the same frame; captured by noted astrophotographer, Stefan Seip.


First, we have comet Machholz, which made a visit to the inner solar system in 2005. Next, we have the famous Pleiades cluster - containing the seven sisters. The tail of Machholz can be seen streaking across the interstellar medium - seemingly involved in a tango with the sisters. When, in fact, neither feature is anywhere near the other. Instead; they are a vast distance apart - it just looks that way from our perspective.


Comet Machholz itself is magnificently huge - with green coma extending across more than 3 times the width of the diameter of Jupiter. The comet itself, on the other hand, is tiny in comparison - coming in at only a few kilometers across.


Not to negate those other characteristics, but the most profoundly beautiful part of Machholz is its double tail. One of them is an ion tail, which is comprised of electrically charged ions. They tend to be discharged into the surrounding space by solar wind ejected from the sun.


The other tail is a dust tail. Tails of this kind have a tendency to curve around - always pointing away from the star in question.

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