Last updated 29 Apr 2024

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P/2002 EX12 (NEAT)

First picked up in March 2002 by the NEAT survey it was designated as 2002 EX12 and  categorised as asteroidal.

Three years later Brian Warner at the Palmer Divide Observatory, Colorado started a photometric run on it and on the first night saw that it had a straight tail, estimated as up to 90" long on images taken the next night on 29 July 2005.

Alan Fitzsimmons using the 2.0-m Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala also reported a 30" long tail on images taken 29 July 2005 and further reported that on May 10 and May 14 2005 it did not show any obvious tail in images taken with the 2.0-m telescope and the 3.5-m New Technology Telescope. (Details from IAUC 8578 and Brian Warner's CALL website)

When discovered in 2002 March the comet was 9 months past perihelion, 2 AU from Earth, 3 AU from the Sun, receding from both and fading at 19th magnitude. After discovery it was identified on pre-discovery images back to 1989 March,

In late July 2005 when first reported as a comet it was 0.19 AU from Earth and 1.1 AU from the Sun, just a week away from its closest approach to the Earth (0.147 AU) and due at perihelion (for the first time since discovery) on 17 September 2005 at a distance of just 0.6 AU from the Sun. It is in a quite eccentric orbit (e=0.77) with a period of 4.2 years, taking it out to 4.6 AU at aphelion, about 0.6 AU inside the orbit of Jupiter.

The animation shows the comet over a period of 8 days through its closest approach to Earth on 2005 Aug 6th. On Aug 6th and 7th the straight tail can be seen extending about 7' and the outer coma can be seen as a very diffuse glow in most frames, extending up to 2' diameter on Aug 8.9 UT. Total exposure time varies for each frame (see details on animation) and the last frame (Aug 9.9 UT) was cut short due to obscuration by trees.

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