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C/1979 Q1

SOLWIND image obtained on 1979 August 30
Copyright 1979 by Naval Research Lab (Washington, D.C.)

These images were obtained with the SOLWIND white light coronagraph aboard the Air Force Space Test Program satellite P78-1 on 1979 August 30. The left-hand image is the first image showing the comet, while the right-hand image was the last showing the comet's head. Venus is located on the left side of each image.


     This was the first comet found on images obtained by the SOLWIND instrument aboard the P78-1 satellite. It was discovered by R. Howard as a result of instrumentation developed and operated by N. Koomen and D. J. Michels. It received an official name of "Howard-Koomen-Michels", but after several other comets were found by SOLWIND, the comet became known as SOLWIND 1. The comet first appeared on an image exposed on 1979 August 30.789, at which time it was located 5.96 solar radii from the sun. The head was last detected on August 30.885 when 2.56 solar radii away. The head was behind the solar disk in later images, but the bright tail continued to be seen until August 30.989.
     Although the comet was never seen to reappear from behind the disk used to block out the sun, a notable brightening of the corona was noticed and it has been commonly presumed that the comet either hit the sun, or completely vaporized because of its near approach. The latter possibility is most favored. Of all the sungrazing comets found by the P78-1, the Solar Maximum Mission (SMM), and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellites, this remains the only comet to have caused such a brightening within the corona.
     The comet's head was measured on 8 images and this enabled B. G. Marsden to compute a parabolic orbit which indicated the comet was a member of the sungrazing family. He revealed the comet passed perihelion on 1979 August 30.949 TT at a distance of only 0.00480 AU.