Tuesday 4 September 2012

Distant Comet C/2012 Q1 (Kowalski)

Comet C/2012 Q1 (Kowalski) taken 2012 Sep 02.01UT
2 images showing movement in 23 minutes.
Each frame is a 16 minute exposure with 0.40-m Schmidt-Cass. telescope & CCD
Original scale 2.14"/pixel, enlarged x4, field size 3.5x3.5 arcmin, North up
(c) P. Birtwhistle 2012, Great Shefford Observatory (J95)
Comet C/2012 Q1 (Kowalski) was discovered by Richard Kowalski using the 1.5-m Reflector on Mt Lemmon as a 19th magnitude object in Pegasus on 28 August 2012, 3 days before full moon. He described it as having a faint round coma approximately 20" in diameter (about double the diameter visible in the animation above).

The full moon hampered the recovery of the discovery and the images above were obtained 2 days after full moon, the very bright sky and interference from high cloud causing a very bright and uneven background to the images.

At the time of writing, with just a week of positions measured for the new comet, it appears to be between 8-10 AU from Earth and 9-11 AU from the Sun, though any determination of its orbit is necessarily very uncertain without a much longer span of observations. However, at such a great distance, the coma size must be impressive, equating to about 150,000 km diameter.

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