Countdown to 500 Comets: no. 452
- Comet Itagaki C/2009 E1
A rare bright comet discovery in this era of the comprehensive sky surveys.
It was discovered (via CCD) on March 14 by Koichi Itagaki in Japan; among
his many discoveries was the re-discovery of Comet 205P/Giacobini last
September. (This is his first comet discovery to be named after him.) On
that day I noted it on the Minor Planet Center's Near-Earth Object
Confirmation Page, and that evening managed to obtain a brief observation of
it before an approaching storm. I saw it again the following night, under
less hurried conditions and better skies. On March 16.10, m1=9.8, 3.5' coma.
The comet is already fairly low in the western evening sky (current
elongation 44 degrees) and it is sinking lower each night; we'll probably
lose it by around the end of this month (although it may have brightened by
about a half-magnitude by then). After conjunction with the sun in mid-April
it emerges into the morning sky during the latter part of that month; it may
still be visually detectable then but it will probably fade rapidly
afterward as it recedes from perihelion.
Description at http://www.earthriseinstitute.org/coms45.html#452
Images and reports (including reports of outreach efforts) are welcome.
- Hi everyone,
First off, I would like to thank everyone for their kind comments and words
of encouragement after I successfully added comet no. 500. (And special
thanks to Terry Lovejoy for discovering it!) It has been an interesting
ride, not only the past five years while I was actually pursuing
"Countdown," but the entire 42 years since I spotted Comet Tago-Sato-Kosaka
on that February evening way back when.
Everyone's asking, "what's next?" For one thing, I'm continuing to observe
as I always have, and I've already been looking for no. 501. (Don't have it
yet, although I've already looked for four different comets that could have
been it had I successfully detected them.) I don't foresee slowing down or
stopping anytime soon, although there will probably come a point sometime
when I no longer feel like trying to track down every single 14th-magnitude
comet that comes along. At the end of the essay I wrote when I started
"Countdown" (http://www.earthriseinstitute.org/comessay.html) I mentioned
some comets that I hope to see in the future; to those I might add comets
like PANSTARRS C/2011 L4 (it would be nice if we northerners could have a
"Great Comet" for a change), and any additional incoming members of the
Sekanina-Chodas "cluster" of Kreutz sungrazers (please, please, will at
least one of these pass perihelion during September or October so we
northerners can appreciate it, too?) While I don't expect it to get bright,
it will be most interesting to follow 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko during its
next return while it is being accompanied by Rosetta.
For the time being, I will continue to update my update page
(http://www.earthriseinstitute.org/comupdate.html) on an approximately
weekly basis. I will certainly include new tally additions as they are
added, although this will usually be done without announcement or fanfare.
As for future programs:
Most of you are probably aware, perhaps through my various "Countdown"
announcements, that I underwent some significant upheavals in my personal
life over the past few years, and among other things these have forced me to
put any kind of Earthrise-related activities and programs on the back
burner. However, those upheavals and changes are behind me now, and I am
once again able to focus on developing some worthwhile educational and
With that thought, yes, there will be a new comet-related observing program,
and I am currently in the process of putting it together. Although there are
still a number of details to be worked out, the primary focus will be on
scientific observations of comets, and in fact some of you have already
communicated some interesting thoughts to me along these lines, and I will
likely be incorporating these into the program. Some of you have also
privately communicated an interest in being part of such a program, and I
can pretty much guarantee I will be taking you up on that, and meanwhile
sometime in the not-too-distant future I will likely be issuing a general
call for others who might be interested, and will also likely approach a few
of you privately as well.
I also should be acquiring some new equipment within the fairly near future,
which should enable me to re-start my imaging program. I know I will never
be able to match the quality of the work of some of the talented people on
this list, but even so I would like to think I can take some images that are
somewhat aesthetically pleasing as well as scientifically useful.
So, I would just say, "watch this space!" I'm hopeful of announcing the new
program in two to three months, but we'll see. In any event, may there
continue to be comets that keep appearing for all of us to enjoy.