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Past, Present, and Future Orbits by Kazuo Kinoshita


     The discovery of an apparently asteroidal object was reported by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program (New Mexico, USA) on 2002 February 7.47. The magnitude was given as 20.1. Three additional images using the same telescope on that night revealed a stellar object of magnitude 19.6-20.0. LINEAR obtained four more positions on February 11, which revealed a stellar object of magnitude 19.2-19.6. The first observation indicating this was a comet was made on March 19.01, when M. Tichy and M. Kocer (Klet Observatory, Czech Republic) photographed the comet using the 106-cm reflector and a CCD camera. They described the object as diffuse and 13" across. Additional confirmation came on March 22.94 and March 22.96, when G. Masi and F. Mallia (Campo Catino, Italy) obtained images using the 80-cm reflector and CCD camera. They noted a faint, diffuse coma that extended about 30" toward PA 330 degrees.

Historical Highlights

  • The first orbit was published by Brian G. Marsden (Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams) on 2002 March 23. Using 63 positions obtained from 2002 February 7 to March 23, this revealed the comet was moving in a short-period orbit with a perihelion date of 2002 February 28.88 and a period of 6.84 years. This proved an excellent representation as, following the comet's recovery in 2009, a new orbit for the 2002 apparition revealed a perihelion date of February 28.94 and a period of 6.84 years.
  • The comet was last detected on 2002 May 12, when astronomers at Kuma Kogen Observatory (Ehime, Japan) obtained three images.
  • Apparition of 2009: This comet was recovered by Gary Hug (Sandlot Observatory, Scranton, Kansas, USA) on 2009 January 31.49. He was using a 56-cm reflector and CCD camera. Hug gave the nuclear magnitude as 19.6-20.0. His positions indicated the predicted perihelion date was in error by -0.32 day. The comet peaked at a maximum magnitude near 18.5 around late March and early April.
  • cometography.com