Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Our last glance at comet 67P for a while

Periodic comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has greatly attracted the attention of the astronomical community, after the re-scheduling of the European Space Agency "Rosetta" mission toward it (http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Rosetta ).

After its perihelion passage, on February 28th, 2009, comet 67P has decreased its brightness, and moved toward solar conjunction. Currently it's observable again in Virgo. The main difficulty is due to its faintness (according to the ephemerids it's about m1= 19). On 2010 March 8th, we tried to perform some follow-up about this comet through the Grove Creek Observatory-Skylive network (near Trunkey, Australia). The sky conditions were good (stellar FWHM about 1.5 arcsec), with a stellar limiting magnitude on the final stacking close to 21.

At the expected coordinates, we found a faint (unfiltered CCD magnitude about 20.5) target that was and moving in good agreement with the ephemerids proper motion. In our stacking, it has a stellar aspect (details on image below. Click on the image for a bigger version):

According to the IAU-Minor Planet Center, "Dates Of Last Observation Of Comets", it was last observed on 2009 June 26, by the Observatorio Nazaret, of G. Muler (MPC#J47, Lanzarote, Spain).

Goodbye 67P, looking forward to you in May 2014, time of arrival of the Rosetta probe in yours vicinity.

by Giovanni Sostero & Ernesto Guido

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