Yesterday when routinely checking the NEOCP, I stumbled on a familiar name — MATSON indicating an extraordinarily bright object compared to other commonly seen objects listed in that page. I know it must be a comet!
Veteran as Rob is in detection of unknown comets in SWAN images, he has already discovered three comets in this way. So in accordance with my experience, I boldly conclude that this time he was again reporting a suspicion in SWAN images.
The first confirmation came from Siding Spring Obs (E12) on Sep 04. By far there had been 13 astrometric and rough photometric observations, all of which were fed into a software for orbital calculation and hence I obtained a possible orbital solution:
Since the arc is very small still, there’s great uncertainty.
I took a look if we visual comet hunters would have been capable of discovering this comet before Rob’s detection in SWAN, and I found out that the answer turned out to be very certain — absolutely we could have!
The chart above illustrates the comet’s path from Aug 26 to Sep 5. The blue slope line in the lower right corner indicates the horizon at 20:00 local time on Sep 05 at Canton. As the comet heads towards the north, the conditions turns better. The souther the latitude a visual comet hunter is situated, the more opportunity he would have been able to detect the comet prior to Rob’s detection. But why nobody managed to catch it? My interpretation is the sheer reduction in the number of visual comet hunters.
Actually I haven’t got surprised whatsoever after seeing the candidate in the NEOCP, as I currently never cover regions in dusk, but areas at predawn, due to severe light pollution from the south to the northwest at Sưi Sỉnh Hạ. I know opportunity will always be there, despite scarcity. It’s a matter of whether people are willing to go into practice or not. Will I succeed in discovering my own comet in nightsky? I don’t know. But I already have set off and have been striving for my dream. In fact I don’t have to long for harvest eagerly at all but will only focus on admiring the beauty of the sky through an eyepiece regardless of reputation and vanity.
Finally, congratulations to Rob on the brilliant discovery!