Last updated 02 Apr 2024

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C/2005 K1 (Skiff)

A discovery by Brian Skiff at the Lowell Observatory, on images taken starting at 08:08UT on 16 May 2005 was recognised as a comet by him and reported to the Minor Planet Center. It was drifting slowly west at a high northern declination in Draco and well placed in the northern hemisphere soon after evening twilight.

It appeared on the NEO Confirmation Page 15 hours later at 23:08UT on 16 May and was picked up and reported to the MPC from the Powell Observatory in Kansas just after 06:00UT on 17 May. The NEO Confirmation page was updated at 13:27UT on 17 May  with the adjustments to the ephemeris prediction that the Powell observations provided.

At Great Shefford skies were good during the day on the 17th but towards evening cloud started to increase. By the time it was dark the object was still on the NEO Confirmation page and was already at an altitude of 54 but the Sun was just 13 below the horizon. 24 images were obtained starting 21:43UT and as the first handful of images were downloaded they were stacked to make sure the object was visible. It was immediately obvious with just 5 images combined that it was a comet, with very noticable coma and indications of a tail. An hour later the skies had clouded up and no further work could be done.

Brian Skiff reported the object as having a 16" diameter moderately condensed coma, with a narrow fan-shaped tail about 90" long tail in p.a. 325. At Powell, Richard Trentman described a coma extended by 1.3' (~80") in p.a. 305 and from the images taken at Great Shefford the comet was described as having a moderately condensed 12" diameter coma and a 20" long broad tail in p.a. 320, possibly extending to 50".

The initial orbit calculated by Brian Marsden at the Minor Planet Center published on MPEC 2005-K15 at 22:49UT on 17 May shows the comet to be distant, about 4.3 AU from Earth and 4.5 AU from Sun at discovery, in an orbit highly inclined to the ecliptic (i = 80) with a perihelion distance of 4.2 AU expected to be reached in November 2005.

However, with observations spanning less than 38 hours and movement on the sky of less than the orbit is flagged as being 'very uncertain' and it is to be expected that substantial revisions will be made in the days and weeks to follow as further observations are reported.


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