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Past, Present, and Future Orbits by Kazuo Kinoshita

M. Jäger photo of 209P exposed on 2009 April 28
Copyright © 2009 by Michael Jäger (Austria)

The CCD image was taken on 2009 April 28.14, using a 14-cm astrograph. Michael acquired four 150-second exposures and then stacked them to form this image.


     This comet was discovered by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project (New Mexico, USA) on five images acquired during 2004 February 3.40-3.45. The images were obtained using a 1.0-m reflector and a CCD camera, but revealed no coma, prompting the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams to consider it as a minor planet and give it the preliminary minor planet designation "2004 CB". The magnitude was given as 17.8-18.2. The "minor planet" was confirmed by S. Sposetti (Gnosca, Switzerland) on three images acquired using his 40-cm reflector and a CCD camera during February 4.98-4.99. He gave the magnitude as 17.3-17.4. Numerous observations were acquired during the next few weeks, but R. H. McNaught (Siding Spring Observatory, Australia) made a discovery on March 30.8. His CCD images using a 1.0-m reflector revealed a narrow tail extending 1.1' in PA 274°. The magnitude was given as 16.7-17.0. The tail was confirmed by M. Kocer (Klet Observatory, Czech Republic) on March 31.15, when CCD images revealed a tail extending about 90" in about PA 280°. Prediscovery images of the comet, dating back to 2003 December 3.41-3.45, were found during 2009. These were additional survey images acquired by LINEAR, with the comet's magnitude then given as 19.0-19.7.

Historical Highlights

  • Operating under the assumption that this object was a minor planet, the Minor Planet Center published the first orbit on 2004 February 5, which used 12 positions from February 3-5. They determined the perihelion date as 2004 April 3.30 and the period as 4.09 years. Following the recognition that this was a comet, the Minor Planet Center published a new orbit using 274 positions from the period of 2004 February 3 to March 30. This gave the perihelion date as 2004 April 2.16 and the period as 5.03 years. The comet was followed until 2004 August 25, when astronomers at Siding Spring Observatory (Australia) acquired images using the 51-cm Uppsala Southern Schmidt telescope and a CCD camera. They gave magnitudes within the range of 19.0-20.4. Calculations using positions spanning the entire 2004 apparition revealed a perihelion date of April 2.16 and a period of 5.03 years.
    [Perihelion Date=2009 April 15.97; Period=5.04 years]
  • K. Kinoshita and S. Nakano independently used positions spanning the 2004 apparition to predict the comet's next perihelion date. Kinoshita determined a date of 2009 April 15.83 on June 27, 2004, while Nakano determined the date as 2009 April 15.82 on September 5, 2004. This comet was recovered by G. Hug (Scranton, Kansas, USA) using a 56-cm reflector and a CCD camera. The comet appeared on several images he had acquired on 2008 December 4 and 5. The nuclear magnitude was within the range of 19.3-19.7. The recovery revealed that the comet's actual perihelion date was 2009 April 15.97, or less than four hours later than the predictions.
    [Perihelion Date=2014 May 6.32; Period=5.10 years]
  • Kinoshita and Nakano have independently published predictions for the 2014 apparition. Both stated that the comet would pass perihelion on 2014 May 6.32. However, the most exciting aspect of this apparition will not be the comet, but the possibility of a strong meteor shower from the comet. In P. Jennisken's 2006 book Meteor Showers and Their Parent Comets, a prediction is published from E. Lyytinen stating that Earth would encounter dust from this comet on the 2014 May 24, adding that the dust was released by the comet during the 1800s and 1900s. Lyytinen said a dozen or more meteors per hour might be observed. During October 2012, J. Verbaillon examined this event in more detail. He noted that all dust trails ejected by this comet between 1803 and 1924 would fall in the path of Earth in May 2014 and suggested the "shower might well be a storm." Verbaillon added that North America would be best suited for this event.
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