(Image courtesy SOHO/LASCO consortium. SOHO is a project
of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.)
Strangely enough, I seem to have a knack for finding comets on rainy days. SOHO comets, that is. We were in the midst of a thunderstorm when I started checking LASCO C2 images early in the evening on June 27, 2002. On looking at the black-and-white images, I noticed a small, bright splotch that followed an apparent Kreutz path for three consecutive frames. I was unable to see it on the first color images, then realized it would have been behind the mask. I e-mailed in a report to Doug Biesecker’s “Sungrazer” website—only my second claim since February, when I’d found my first SOHO comet. (The rain was not quite so heavy that evening.) I soon checked the site to make sure my claim had been posted, to find that it had arrived just 7 seconds before a claim for the same object from California SOHO comet hunter Rob Matson. Rob wondered if we should get joint credit for the comet. I had no objection, as for all practical purposes it’s virtually a simultaneous posting. A discussion ensued on the SOHO Hunter mailing list, where several of the more experienced observers noted that Doug had stopped giving joint credit, even if the claims were received one second apart; this proved to be the case. (Rob Matson made out okay in the end; the next day he found a brighter comet that had a small fragment trailing it, so he got credit for two comets.)
I’ve included the claim below; the top line gives the time and date of the report (in EST); in the two lines below it I indicate the camera and the scale of the image in pixels. The bottom lines list the date and times (in UT) of the three images, followed by the positions in pixels (measured from the upper left corner) of the object in question.
Jun 27 2002 21:07:19
Possible comet in C2 realtime images
b/w, 512 x 512, 0,0 in upper left
0006 506, 464
0030 503, 458
0054 500, 451
I was a bit concerned because when the first confirmations went up, there was no mention of my name, and Rob was given credit for his first post (which would have been the comet we both had found). On looking closely at the confirmations, though, I realized that Toni Scarmato had been given credit for a comet on 6/28, when he had not put in any claim. I asked Derek about it, and he soon posted a correction. I guess I’m still the new kid in town, and I should include my full name in the body of the message when I submit a claim. (Of course, Toni Scarmato spells his name with an “i”.) At any rate, my comet has been designated C/2002 M5, also known as SOHO-474, the 474th SOHO comet. At this rate, we could see the 500th SOHO comet as early as September.
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