Comet Section        


A new bright comet has been discovered. The All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) uses their 14cm “Cassius” telescope (really a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR
400mm F2.8G ED VR lens paired with a Finger Lakes ProLine PL230 CCD camera) on Cerro Tololo in Chile to conduct a search for new supernovae. On July 19, ASAS-SN came across a new comet. While CCD observers have been placing the new object between magnitude 12 and 16, a few visual observers have estimated it to be as bright as magnitude 10.

A preliminary orbit released by the Minor Planet Center shows C/2017 O1 to be a long-period comet currently located at 1.88 au from the Sun and 1.63 au from Earth. Since it is heading inbound to a perihelion on October 14 at 1.51 au from the Sun and a close approach to Earth on October 17 at 0.72 au, the comet should brighten. How bright is still uncertain but it may become as bright as 8th magnitude. At present, it can be seen near the Cetus-Eridanus border. Slowly traveling north, it will be a northern circumpolar object by mid-October.

The IAU announcement of the discovery of C/2017 O1 did not include a name. It will be interesting to see what name this comet ultimately carries. The acronym ASAS-SN is pronounced ‘assassin’ which will give this comet quite a unique name. An earlier system discovered comets C/2004 R2 (ASAS) and C/2006 A1 (Pojmanski) making C/2017 O1 the third discovery by the ASAS/ASAS-SN team.

With C/2015 V2 (Johnson) slowly receding from view over the next few weeks for northern observers, C/2017 O1 will provide a much needed target for northern comet observers during the second half of 2017.

Ephemerides can be produced at the MPC here.

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