Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year!

As the head of the ISON Project and the ISON-NM Observatory, I wish all the readers of our site a happy new year! I want to wish you all happiness and success in the coming year, 2011!

I want to present the basic results of the past year; more details will come later – January 13, 2011 will mark half a year for our observing program. In that time hundreds of new objects have been discovered, one of which is the Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) 2010 RN80, but the biggest discovery was the first Russian comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin). Tens of thousands of measurements of thousands of minor Solar System bodies were sent to the Minor Planet Center (MPC).

At the observatory we have begun to use new software, the programming complex CLT for image processing and ACP+ACPS for effective operation of the remote observatory.

There has been significant growth in the visitors to the observatory site; in December there were a record 2550 unique visitors, with 4000 actual visits. The international popularity of the site is particularly gratifying.

We await new and interesting discoveries in the coming year!

Discovery of Two New Short-Period Comets


During the last several days, participants in the T3 Project, search for comets in the asteroid population, Raoul Behrend, Geneva Observatory, and Hidetaka Sato, Tokyo, Japan, discovered cometary activity in two asteroids having cometary orbits – 2002 VP94 and 2010 WK. This information was confirmed by several observatories taking part in the project, including the ISON-NM Observatory. All data was sent to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams,  CBAT. December 27th the former asteroids received comet designations P/200 (LINEAR) and P/2010 WK (LINEAR). Both comets have short perioids (7.89 and 13.75 years) and small inclinations to the axis of the ecliptic.

This discovery is a good example of coordinated and goal-directed work of amateur astronomers from around the world.

The latest news about comet C/2010 X1

It has already been more than two weeks since the discovery of the comet. A periodic circular has come out with improved orbital elements. The orbital variant with the close perihelion has been supported (perihelion date 4 September 2011), but so far the orbit looks parabolic. It is very probable that in time the eccentricity will become less than one and we will be able to calculate the orbital period of the comet around the Sun.

Article about comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin) in Sky and Telescope.

(Russian) «Кометы могут представлять серьезную угрозу” – интервью “Газете.ru”

Sorry, this entry is only available in Russian.

C/2010 X1 – A Bright Comet of 2011


From new observations of Comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin), the Minor Planet Center has published new orbital parameters. There has been a fundamental change; instead of a perihelion near Jupiter’s orbit, the comet will have an aphelion at Mercury’s orbit! Of course the new comet does not belong to the class of sungrazing comets, but it will be visible in images from the coronagraph installed on the space observatory SOHO.

C/2010 X1 comes within 0.03 a.u. (4.5 million km) of the Earth’s orbit, but only ~0.4 a.u. from the planet itself – not at all threatening to us.

The comet will increase its brightness; in August of 2011 it will be mag. 6-8. By the end of the month and throughout September the comet will be hidden from earthly observers in the rays of the Sun, but it will be easily visible in images from the cosmic coronagraph. At that time the comet’s brightness will be at maximum – about mag. 3-4 (although with passage so close to the Sun anything can be expected). By the way, at that time the comet will again be at the same equatorial coordinates where it was discovered in December of 2010.

Beginning in October, the comet will again become visible for observations from Earth; at that time its brightness will be magnitude 4-5, i.e. the comet will be visible to the unaided eye far from large cities. Visibility conditions from northern latitudes will be favorable – the tailed guest will climb into the northern sky. After that, C/2010 X1 will slowly become fainter and move away from the Earth. By the beginning of 2012 its brightness will be around mag. 11-12.

The orbit of the comet will continue to be made more precise, although I don’t expect any serious changes in its orbital parameters. From a comet passing inside the orbit of the Earth, anything can be expected; we will see what show lies ahead in the coming year!

December 2010
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