Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Comet Discovery: P/2009 QG31

IAU circular No. 9078, issued on 2009, Sept. 29, announces that an asteroidal object, discovered with a 0.45-m f/2.8 reflector + CCD by the "La Sagra Sky Survey" (Spain), has been reported to show cometary features by several observers, involved in its astrometric follow-up.

Our attention to this object with a peculiar orbit, has been drawn by one member of the "La Sagra" staff (R. Stoss, 2009 Sept. 10, private communication). Then we planned an observing campaign, asking some help to other fellow observers of the CARA collaboration (namely, P. Bacci, E. Bryssinck and R. Ligustri).

Our first attempt to investigate about the nature of this object, simply failed: the images obtained on 2009, Sept. 14, remotely from the Mayhill Station (NM) of the GRAS network, were of bad quality due to the presence of thin cyrrus clouds. Then, for several nights, bad weather conditions prevented us to perform further follow-up on it.

Finally, on Sept. 18.5, we succeed imaging it remotely with the 0.35-m f/7 reflector + CCD of the "Skylive" network (near Trunkey, Australia). At that time, the object was nearly 70 deg above the horizon, and the very good seeing allowed us to identify its tiny round coma, about 7-arcsec in diameter, having a total (unfiltered R) magnitude of about 19:

Further confirming observations were performed by other fellow observers we alerted, like the CARA memebers E. Bryssinck (remotely through the Tzec Maun 0.4-m reflector, NM, Sept. 16.3) and R. Ligustri (Talmassons, Italy, 0.35-m reflector; Sept. 19.9), who reported a coma ranging from 10 to 15-arcsec in diameter.

Other indipendent positive detections of cometary features on this object were performed by observers operating professional telescopes, like A. F. Tubbiolo and R. S. McMillan (Spacewatch 1.8-m reflector, Sept. 12.3), F. Hormuth (Calar Alto 3.5-m telescope, Sept. 17.9) and G. Muler (2-m Faulkes Telescope North, Sept. 18.4), that described a 10-15-arcsec diffuse coma.

According to the Minor Planet Center's database, this low-activity, Jupiter-family comet, completes a revolution around the Sun every 6.8 years, with a perihelion at about 2.1 Au from our star (that will be reached in Oct. 2009), and an aphelion at 5.0 AU; inclination above the ecliptic plane is about 5 deg. It's future visibility will be complicated by its declining brightness.

Congratulations to the "La Sagra Sky Survey" team for their discovery.

by G. Sostero, E. Guido, P. Camilleri, M. Jaeger, W. Vollmann, and E. Prosperi

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