Comet Garradd approaching the sun and brightening


As September begins, green Comet Garradd is gliding across the star fields of the Milky Way in the early evening sky. The icy visitor from the outer solar system is not yet visible to the naked eye, but it looks great through amateur telescopes.

Astrophotographer Pete Lawrence of Selsey UK points out that Comet Garradd is approaching Brocchi’s Cluster, also known as “the Coathanger.” Lawrence photographed the approach on August 31st. The best night for a photo opportunity between Garradd and The Coathanger is on the 2nd of September leading into the morning of the 3rd, when the comet will pass very close to the hook of the hanger.

At the moment, Comet Garradd is a purely telescopic object. It is, however, approaching the sun and brightening. Recent projections place it at peak magnitude 6, on the threshold of naked-eye visibility, in February 2012. Because Comet Garradd is a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, it could behave in unexpected ways, perhaps exceeding those expectations. (SpaceWeather)

G. J. Garradd (Siding Spring Observatory, Australia) discovered this comet on four images obtained between 2009 August 13.77 and August 13.81. He was using the 0.5-m Uppsala Schmidt telescope and a CCD camera. The magnitude was given as 17.5-17.7 and the coma was described as circular and 15″ across. The first confirmation was obtained by W. Robledo (El Condor Observatory, Cordoba) on August 14.17.

Upcoming Highlights

  • The comet will reach a maximum solar elongation of 149 degrees on 2011 August 8.
  • After having moved northward since September 2010, the comet will attain a declination of +19.9 degrees on 2011 September 12 and will then turn southward.
  • The southward motion will only continue until 2011 October 26, when the comet attains a declination of +18.7 degrees and will then resume a northward motion.
  • The comet will reach a minimum solar elongation of 45 degrees on 2011 December 5.
  • The comet will be closest to Earth on 2012 March 5 (1.27 AU).
  • The comet will attain its most northerly declination of +70.7 degrees on 2012 March 11 and will move steadily southward for the remainder of the year.
  • The comet will reach a maximum solar elongation of 112 degrees on 2012 March 17.
  • The comet will reach a minimum solar elongation of 4 degrees on 2012 August 16.


Comet Garradd 3D orbit

The Comet Hunter


29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1
Perihelion: 2004 July 10
Normally extremely faint, it occasionally experiences large outbursts in brightness

C/2011 C1 (McNaught)
Perihelion: 2011 April 17
Maximum magnitude about 12

C/2010 X1 (Elenin)
Perihelion: 2011 September 10
Maximum magnitude about 5

Perihelion: 2011 September 28
Maximum magnitude about 7

73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3
Perihelion: 2011 October 16
Maximum magnitude about 12

C/2009 P1 (Garradd)
Perihelion: 2011 December 23
Maximum magnitude about 7

Perihelion: 2013 April 17
Maximum magnitude between 0 and 3 (still uncertain)


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