Toshio Haneda (Haranomachi, Fukushima, Japan) discovered this comet with an 8.5-cm refractor on 1978 September 1.52. He described it as diffuse, with a condensation, and about magnitude 10. José da Silva Campos (Durban, South Africa) independently discovered this comet on September 1.88. He described the comet as diffuse, with a condensation, and about magnitude 9.
The first prediscovery image was reported by Arie J. B. Verveer (Perth Observatory), who found the comet on a plate exposed on August 11.70. He estimated the magnitude as 11 and described the comet as diffuse, with condensation, but with no tail.
Additional images were found by E. Helin and S. J. Bus (Palomar Mountain Observatory on a plate exposed on August 10.33, and G. Pizarro (European Southern Observatory) on a plate exposed on August 9.15. Helin and Bus estimated the magnitude as 13-14, while Pizarro estimated it as 11.
The very first orbits computed for this comet were elliptical and appeared on IAU Circular 3260 (1978 September 6). They were independently calculated by M. P. Candy and B. G. Marsden. Candy used 6 positions obtained between September 2 and 4, and determined the perihelion date as 1978 October 9.43, the perihelion distance as 1.100 AU, and the orbital period as 4.95 years. Marsden used 9 positions obtained between September 2 and 5. The perihelion date was determined as 1978 October 9.48, the perihelion distance was 1.103 AU, and the orbital period was 5.84 years. Marsden said this orbit suggested that the comet made a close approach to Jupiter in 1969. The announcement of the prediscovery images enabled Marsden to compute a revised orbit on September 19. Using 14 positions obtained between August 10 and September 12, Marsden determined the perihelion date as 1978 October 9.49, the perihelion distance as 1.102 AU, and the orbital period was 5.99 years. Marsden commented that this orbit indicated the comet passed 0.3-0.4 AU from Jupiter in 1957 and 1969.
The comet was at its brightest around the time of its visual discovery, with several observers reporting a total magnitude in the 9-10 range during the first week of September. With the comet passing closest to Earth (0.1540 AU) on September 9, this apparition was exceptional and indicated the comet was an intrinsically faint object. Observers continued to described the comet as diffuse, with a condensation thoughout most of September, although descriptions changed toward the end of the month. On September 24, astronomers at the University of Chile's Cerro El Roble Astronomical station photographed the comet on the 24th, and described it as a nebulous image about 4 arc seconds across with a broad tail extending 20 arc seconds toward the north-northeast. Hans-Emil Schuster (European Southern Observatory) described it as very diffuse on September 29.
The comet was last detected on November 29.22, when astronomers at Harvard College Observatory's Agassiz station photographed it. The nuclear magnitude was estimated as 18.
Marsden revised his orbital calculations during 1979 January, using 24 positions obtained from 1978 August 9 to November 8. The resulting perihelion date was 1978 October 9.50, the perihelion distance was 1.101 AU, and the orbital period was 5.97 years.
Predictions were made for the returns in 1984-1985 and 1991, but no trace of the comet was found. For the latter return, S. Nakano used 55 positions obtained during the period of 1978 July 30 to November 29 and predicted the comet would return to perihelion on 1991 April 9.54. The comet's perihelion distance had increased to 1.225 AU and the orbital period had increased to 6.28 years.