Between July 12-17, 2012, comet 96P/Machholz will be visible in the SOHO LASCO/C3 field of view and will brighten to about magnitude +2. Also, it should be visible from both STEREO A and B between July 13-15 and it comes to perihelion on July 14, 2012. The comet will not make another close approach to the Earth until 2028, when it will pass at a distance of 0.319 AU (47,700,000km; 29,700,000 miles).
Latest STEREO A/B
96P/Machholz (or 96P/Machholz 1) is a short-period comet with an estimated radius of around 3.2km, and a high inclination with respect to the plane of the solar system. It’s highly eccentric 5.2 year orbit has the smallest perihelion distance known among numbered/regular short-period comets, bringing it considerably closer to the Sun than the orbit of Mercury. 96P/Machholz was discovered on May 12, 1986 by amateur astronomer Donald Machholz on Loma Pieta peak, in central California using 130 millimetres (5.1 in) binoculars. It is the only known short-period comet with both high orbital inclination and high eccentricity. In 2007, Machholz 1 was found to be both carbon-depleted and cyanogen-depleted, a chemical composition nearly unique among comets with known compositions. The chemical composition implies a different and possible extrasolar origin. The high inclination of Machholz 1’s orbit, 59°, suggests that it could come from the Oort Cloud rather than the Kuiper Belt, which is the source of most short-period comets.
The following orbital elements are taken from MPC 79654:
Epoch 2012 July 12.0 TT = JDT 2456120.5
T 2012 July 14.7859 TT MPC
q 0.123792 (2000.0) P Q
n 0.1866097 Peri. 14.7561 -0.2063780 -0.4875060
a 3.032819 Node 94.3243 +0.7892381 -0.5954430
e 0.959183 Incl. 58.2988 +0.5783696 +0.6385809
From 638 observations 1988-2012, mean residual 0".6. Nongravitational
parameters A1 = -0.02, A2 = -0.0001.
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