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120P/Mueller 1

Past, Present, and Future Orbits by Kazuo Kinoshita


     Jean Mueller (Palomar Observatory, California, USA) discovered this comet on photographic plates exposed on 1987 October 18.27 during the second Palomar Sky Survey. The plate was obtained with the 1.22-m Schmidt telescope and indicated the comet was about magnitude 17. Confirmation was obtained by N. Reid and Mueller on October 19.30. Mueller described the comet as diffuse with a condensation. There was a tail extending 20-30 arc seconds toward the south-southwest.

Historical Highlights

  • The first orbit was published by Daniel W. E. Green on October 27. He used 6 positions obtained during the period of October 18 to 24 and indicated the comet was moving in a short-period orbit. He determined the perihelion date as 1987 October 18.32, the perihelion distance as 2.707 AU, and the orbital period as 8.21 years.
  • The comet continued to fade as 1988 began. The comet was last detected by observers at Spacewatch at Kitt Peak on 1988 February 13.17.
  • The comet was next expected at perihelion during April 1996. James V. Scotti (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Arizona, USA) recovered it on 1995 July 30.44 as it was faintly glowing at magnitude 22.2. He noted the image was slightly diffuse and was near the limit of the exposure. Precise positions indicated the prediction of S. Nakano required a correction of -0.75 day--indicating a perihelion date of 1996 April 24.67. The comet was seen for the final time on 1996 December 14.35 by observers at Spacewatch.
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