(2006 January 07)
The first comet of 2006 has been found -- by a Polish astronomer on images taken in Chile (and independently by a Lithuanian on images taken millions of kilometres from Earth) confirmed by an astronomer in Uruguay.
Dr Grzegorz Pojmanski, Warsaw University Astronomical Observatory, discovered the comet on CCD images taken on 2006 January 1. About seven hours after he reported his find, Dr Kazimieras Cernis of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy in Vilnius, Lithuania, also spotted it (apparently independently) whilst scanning the SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) website and studying ultraviolet images taken a few days earlier. The cometary nature of the new object was confirmed on a CCD image acquired by an astronomer from Los Molinos Astronomical Observatory in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The discovery images that Dr Pojmanski analyzed were taken as part of the All Sky Automated Survey at Las Campanas (Chile). The ASAS uses a CCD camera attached to a computer-driven 180-mm-focal-length f/2.8 telephoto lens.
The comet received the official designation of Comet C/2006 A1 (Pojmanski), announced on IAU Circular No. 8653.
Tim Cooper, Director of the ASSA Comet and Meteor Section, has provided details of this new comet:
Preliminary parabolic orbital elements:
T = 2006 Feb 22.671
q = 0.56748
i = 93.230
e = 1.000
node = 212.275 (2000)
peri = 350.499
The comet is currently circumpolar in the constellation of Pavo, low in the evening sky. It is about magnitude 12 and diffuse. As January progresses it should brighten, towards perihelion on February 22. On that date it will likely be magnitude 9 or a little brighter and rises just after 3 am SAST. During March the comet will move rapidly northwards as it starts to fade, moving through Delphinus into Cygnus, and by month end in Lacerta when only the most northerly observers will be able to see it. The table below gives the approximate predicted brightness and separation from the Sun.
Date Mag Sep (deg)
Jan 10 11.0 47
Jan 20 10.6 41
Jan 30 10.2 38
Feb 09 9.6 35
Feb 19 9.1 35
Mar 01 8.8 36
Mar 11 9.0 43
Please endeavour to observe this comet and send me your observations.