Monday, 21 January 2013

Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) brightens faster than expected

 Comet Lemmon (Michael Jaeger)

In Crux
2013 is gearing up nicely to be a superb year for bright comets. Already we have two comets that promise to be spectacular this year; Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) should peak at magnitude -1 in March and then later in the year comet ISON (C/2012 S1) may even reach the dizzy heights of magnitude -15 in November.

There is another comet that is currently brightening faster than expected and although will probably not be bright as the above-mentioned comets, it may prove to be the surprise package of the year. Its name is Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6).

Discovery
Alex Gibbs of the Mount Lemmon Survey discovered Comet Lemmon on March 23, 2012. The Mount Lemmon Survey is part of the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), a Near-Earth objects searching project, specifically aimed at finding potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) that may pose a threat of impact to Earth. Currently there are a number of telescopes participating in the survey, each of the order of 1-metre in aperture, located at various astronomical sites. The project is producing superb results with the Mount Lemmon telescope currently the most prolific telescope in the world for discovering Near-Earth Objects.
The objects discovered are often faint; Comet Lemmon was only magnitude 20.7 when found.

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