Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Slight cometary activity detected in tiny comet P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS)

Comet P/2016 BA14 was originally reported as a minor planet when discovered by the 1.8-m Pan-STARRS1 telescope on 2016 January 22 but further images taken with the 4.3-m Discovery Channel Telescope on 2016 Feb. 10.2 and 13.2 UT showed a tail about 10" long in p.a. 65 degrees. It is very likely that P/2016 BA14 is a small fragment of comet 252P/LINEAR, both comets making close approaches to Earth during March 21-23 2016.

With the comet moving from far south declinations swiftly northward during mid to late March the night of the full moon, March 22 was the first opportunity to image this tiny comet from Great Shefford, coincidentally the date of closest approach to Earth, with the comet at slightly less than 10 times the distance of the moon.

The images below were taken with P/2016 BA14 just 37 degrees from the full moon and some interference from passing high cloud too. Each frame is made from a stack of between 80 and 94 individual 6 second exposures and all stacked frames show weak cometary activity extending to the south east of the nucleus (to the lower left) between p.a. 120 - 170 degrees. The best stacks show indications of a tail at least 3.5 arcmin long in p.a. 147 degrees. The anti-solar direction is in p.a. 126 degrees.

Comet P/2016 BA14 showing weak cometary activity on 2016 March 22.

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