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177P/Barnard 2

Past, Present, and Future Orbits by Kazuo Kinoshita

Image of 177P exposed on 2006 July 15
Copyright 2006 by Mike Holloway (Holloway Comet Observatory, Van Buren, Arkansas, USA)

M. Holloway obtained this image on 2006 July 15. It is composed of eighteen 30-second exposures obtained using a 10-cm FSQ refractor and a Fli Maxcam 10 CCD.


     Edward Emerson Barnard (Lick Observatory, California, USA) discovered this comet in Andromeda with a 6.5-inch refractor on 1889 June 24.42. He described the comet as faint, with no condensation or tail. Designations: P/1889 M1 = 1889 III = 1889c.
     This comet was accidentally recovered by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project on 2006 June 23.26 and was reported as a minor planet of magnitude 17.1. During the period of June 23.97-23.99, L. Buzzi (Varese, Italy) obtained images using a 60-cm reflector and noted the object was cometary, with a circular coma 6 arc seconds across and a strong central condensation. Designations: P/2006 M3.

Historical Highlights

  • A. Berberich computed the first elliptical orbit during 1889 November. Using 5 positions obtained from June 25 to August 1, he determined the orbital period as 128.3 years. During 1972 B. G. Marsden and Z. Sekanina computed a revised orbit using 19 positions obtained during the period of June 24 to August 7. They gave the orbital period as 145±10 years.
  • The Marsden/Sekanina orbit revealed the comet passed closest to Earth on 1889 May 30 (1.0105 AU), or before the comet's discovery. As it turned out, the comet was also barely passed perihelion, so that this was basically the best circumstances for viewing it. The comet faded in the coming weeks. During the remainder of June it was generally described as 2 arc minutes across and only moderately condensed. The nucleus was estimated as 13th-magnitude near the end of the month. The comet was smaller and fainter as July began, with coma diameter estimates near 1 arc minute. Most observers ceased to see the comet after mid-month and moonlight essentially ended observations during the last half of July. The comet was last seen on August 7.47 by Barnard. He wrote, "The comet was of the last degree of faintness, and was observed with the utmost difficulty."
  • Following the comet's accidentally recovery in 2006, Marsden quickly pointed out that this was a return of Barnard's periodic comet of 1889. He determined that the orbital period for the 1889 apparition was 117.36 years, while the period for the 2006 apparition was 119.64 years.
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