Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Comet: C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)

IAUC nr.9215, issued on 2011, June 08, announces the discovery of a new comet (discovery magnitude 19.4) on four CCD images taken with the 1.8-m "Pan-STARRS 1" telescope at Haleakala, on images obtained on 2011, June 6.4. The new comet has been designated C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS).

After posting on the Minor Planet Center's 'NEOCP' webpage, this object has been found by several CCD astrometrists to show cometary appearance. We performed some follow-up measurements of this object while it was still listed in the NEOCP. Stacking of 14 unfiltered exposures, 180-sec each, obtained remotely on 2011, June 07.4 from the Tzec Maun Observatory (near Mayhill, NM) through a 0.35-m f/3.8 reflector + CCD, shows that this object is slightly diffused, with a hint of elongation toward the north-east.

Our confirming image (click for a bigger version):

M.P.E.C. 2011-L33 assignes the following preliminary orbital elements to comet C/2011 L4: T 2013 Apr. 17.12; e= 1.0; Peri. = 331.67; q = 0.36 AU; Incl. = 104.74

According to this very preliminary orbit based on an arc of only 2 weeks, this comet might become a bright object ( ~ magnitude 2) around perihelion in March-April 2013 and better placed for southern hemisphere. Next weeks will tell us something more about the future of this comet!!

This is the second comet discovery for PANSTARRS.

by Giovanni Sostero & Ernesto Guido


Kevin Heider said...

It's too early to speculate on this comet, but it has the potential to be a bright object in the STEREO-B spacecraft images in April 2013.

See the 2-body orbit diagram @ SECCHI (This 2-body method does not account for planetary perturbations of the comet.)

Note: The above page was created shortly after object discovery with a very small data arc of 15 days (May 24 - June 8). Therefore the orbital parameters used here are preliminary, and subject to change. A 30+ day data arc will provide a much better short-term fit and a 60+ day data arc will allow better solutions to the orbital period of the comet.

As of 2011-Jun-09, C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is 7.15AU from the Earth (8.14AU from the Sun).

-- Kevin Heider

Team said...

Thanks for your comment @Kevin.

Yes, as we wrote on the post, in the next weeks we'll know something more about the future of this comet.