G A R Y   W.   K R O N K ' S   C O M E T O G R A P H Y


Past, Present, and Future Orbits by Kazuo Kinoshita

H. Mikuz image of 126P exposed on 1996 November 2
Copyright © 1997 by Herman Mikuz (Crni Vrh Observatory, Slovenia)

This false-color image of 126P/IRAS, was taken on 1996 Nov. 2.79 UT (start) by Herman Mikuz. It was obtained with the 36-cm, f/6.8 S-C telescope, V-filter and Wright CCD. Exposure time was 5 minutes. The frame field of view is 10.7 by 9.0 arc minutes.


     This comet was discovered on three images obtained by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite on 1983 June 28.76, 28.83, and 28.90. J. Davies announced the discovery and measured the comet's position. A confirmation was immediately obtained by J. Gibson (Palomar Observatory, California, USA) on June 30.48. His photograph with the 1.2-m Schmidt telescope indicated a total magnitude of 15. The comet itself appeared as an essentially stellar object, with no condensation or tail. After exposing additional photographs on July 1-3, Gibson remarked that the comet was "not obviously cometary."

Historical Highlights

  • The comet's short-period nature was first announced on 1983 July 26, when Brian G. Marsden (Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams) released details of an orbit computed from positions obtained from 1983 June 30 to July 21. The preliminary orbit indicated an orbital period of 13.32 years.
  • The comet reached a maximum brightness of 11 in mid-September 1983. J. Bortle (New York, USA) detected a tail on the 9th with his 0.32-m reflector. It extended 3.5 arc minutes in PA 230°.
  • Apparition of 1996: Using 95 observations obtained from 1983 June 30 to 1984 Feb. 22, K. Muraoka predicted the comet would next return to perihelion on 1996 Oct. 31.65. The orbital period was given as 13.30 years. The comet was recovered on 1996 August 8.71, when Q. A. Parker (Siding Spring, Australia) photographed it with the U. K. Schmidt telescope. The magnitude was then estimated as 13 and the position indicated the predicted perihelion date needed corrected by -1.65 days. The comet passed closest to Earth on September 21 (0.9715 AU), but continued to brighten as it approached perihelion. The maximum magnitude just slightly exceeded 12 during late October, and the comet faded only slightly during the first half of November. It was last detected on 1997 March 1.81 by astronomers at the Astronomical and Geophysical Observatory, Modra (Slovakia).
  • Apparition of 2010: Using positions from the 1983 and 1996 apparitions, the Minor Planet Center predicted the comet would next reach perihelion on 2010 February 22.79. The recovery of this comet was made by Leonid Elenin (Tzec Maun observatory, Pingelly, Australia) on 2009 May 27.59, using a 15-cm refractor and a CCD camera. His positions indicated the predicted orbit required a correction of only -0.13 day. The comet was described as stellar and magnitude 19.2. It is predicted that the comet could reach a maximum magnitude of 13-14 early in 2010.
  • Additional Images

    Toru Yusa image of 126P exposed on 1996 November 3
    Copyright © 1996 by Toru Yusa (Kogota, Japan)

    This image was taken on 1996 November 3.50, using a 0.20-m f/5.9 Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain and an SBIG ST-6 CCD camera. The image is a 60-second exposure and the field of view is 25 by 18 arc minutes. North is up and east is to the left.

    Masayuki Suzuki image of 126P exposed on 1996 November 16
    Copyright © 1998 by Masayuki Suzuki (Japan)

    This image was taken on 1996 November 16, using a 0.20-m f/10 LX200 telescope and a CCD camera. The image is a 30-second exposure.

    Leonid Elenin's recovery image of 126P exposed on 2009 May 27
    Copyright © 2009 by Leonid Elenin (Tzec Maun observatory, Pingelly, Australia)