[meteorite-list] Here Comes a 'NEAT' Comet - C/2001 Q4 (NEAT)

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:32:48 2004
Message-ID: <200403111637.IAA22136_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Here Comes a 'NEAT' Comet
Robert Roy Britt
March 10, 2004

A comet approaching the inner solar system is sporting a faint tail,
seen in a new photograph. The icy wanderer, called C/2001 Q4 (NEAT),
promises to be visible to the unaided eye this spring from around the

The picture was made with the 14-inch (35.28-centimeter) SoTIE
telescope in Las Campanas, Chile, as part of an educational project in

"The sky was not completely dark, but we find it quite interesting,"
said Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi of the Bellatrix Astronomical
Observatory. "And it shows a very nice tail."

The picture was taken March 10 when the comet was low on the horizon --
roughly two fist-widths on an outstretched arm, or 20 degrees of sky
in astronomers terms.

Depending on how the comet reacts to increasing doses of solar radiation,
the tail could become more pronounced over the next two months as
skywatchers in both hemispheres get opportunities to see the comet with
no optical aids necessary. Not all comets develop noticeable tails, and
scientists can't say how this one will develop.

Comet NEAT, as it is commonly called, was discovered by the Near Earth
Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program in August 2001. It was then a 20th
magnitude object on a scale in which smaller numbers represent brighter
objects. Very bright stars are magnitude 1 or 2. The dimmest objects
visible under very dark skies are around magnitude 6.5.

NEAT could brighten to 1st or 2nd magnitude in late April and remain
that bright through mid-May, astronomers predict. It is in the Southern
Hemisphere sky now, just slightly fainter than what can be picked up
by the naked eye. It should show up for viewers north of the equator
in early May, after it has become fairly easy to spot.

Another comet, called LINEAR, will also soon be visible from the
Southern Hemisphere, and depending on how much it brightens it might
be seen just before sunrise in late April and early May from the
Northern Hemisphere, setting up a rare opportunity to spy two comets
at once.
Received on Thu 11 Mar 2004 11:37:42 AM PST

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