Copyright © 2002 by Amtsgymnasiet (Sonderborg, Denmark)
This image was obtained by high school students at Amtsgymnasiet and EUC Syd (Sonderborg, Denmark) on 2002 December 18.81. It is a composite of 36 100-second exposures obtained with a telescope and an Apogee AP6E CCD camera.
T. Kudo (Nishi Goshi-machi, Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto-ken, Japan) discovered this comet within the constellation Boötes on 2002 December 13.83. He was using 20x125 binoculars. The total magnitude was estimated as 9.5, while the coma diameter was given as 2 arc minutes. An independent discovery was made by Shigehisa Fujikawa (Oonohara, Kagawa, Japan) on December 14.86. He estimated the magnitude as about 9 and gave the coma diameter as 4 arc minutes. This becomes the sixth comet to carry Fujikawa's name, with his first discovery coming in 1969. Prediscovery images were subsequently found by Terry Lovejoy (Australia) on SWAN images obtained by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) space probe during the period of November 6 to 13.
The first orbit was published by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams on 2002 December 15 (MPEC 2002-X84). Using 24 positions spanning the period of December 14 and 15, it gave a parabolic orbit with a perihelion date of 2003 January 24.97 and a perihelion distance of 0.11 AU. Ultimately the comet proved to have a perihelion date of January 29 and a perihelion distance of 0.19 AU. This indicated the comet could be a naked-eye object at the end of December and about magnitude 3 by the middle of January.
Although the comet was proving to be a very nice object to photograph during the last 10 days of December, observations seemed to indicate the comet's rate of brightening was beginning to slow down. The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams predicted the comet would brighten from 6.9 to 6.1 between December 22 and 29, but nearly 40 observations obtained during this interval provided widely scattered visual magnitudes ranging from 6.3 to 7.8, with most of the brightest magnitudes being reported on December 26 and 27. The comet's low altitude probably contributed to the discrepancies in magnitude estimates. There was only a slight indication that the comet really brightened during this period. About 95 percent of the observers were using binoculars and most reported a coma diameter between 5 and 7 arc minutes.
As January began, the comet's low altitude was making observations somewhat difficult, and there was a large scatter in both magnitude estimates and coma diameters because of varying conditions near the horizon. Magnitude estimates on the 1st and 2nd ranged from 6.3 to 7.1, while the coma diameter was given as 5 to 10 arc minutes. Magnitude estimates on the 14th and 15th, were generally between 5.6 and 6.0, while the coma diameter was given as 3 to 7 arc minutes. A short, narrow tail was being reported.
The comet passed about 1.5° from the sun on January 28, as seen from Earth, and passed perihelion (its closest distance from the sun) on January 29.
Copyright © 2003 by SOHO
This image was constructed by this web site's author from images obtained by the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). It shows the comet's motion at 5-hour intervals beginning on 2003 January 25 at 15:54 UT, when the comet had barely entered the field of view. The white circle in the lower left represents the outline of the sun.
Copyright © 2003 by SOHO
This image was constructed by this web site's author from images obtained by the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). It shows the comet's motion on 2003 January 27. The white circle in the lower left represents the outline of the sun.
Observers in the Southern Hemisphere began seeing the comet in the evening sky during the first days of February. It was then low in the southwestern sky. The comet passed closest to Earth (0.86 AU) on February 20.