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P/2006 F1 (Kowalski)

Comet P/2006 F1 (Kowalski) was added to the NEO Confirmation page on 21 March 2006 as a slow moving object in the morning sky, with magnitude quoted as +18.7. As is usual for objects on the confirmation page there was no indication of its cometary nature.

It was confirmed from Europe about 10 hours after being posted on the web and 24 hours after that, clear skies from Great Shefford allowed follow-up to be done while it was still listed on the NEOCP.

An initial set of 21 x 30 second exposures showed the object as being possibly elongated in the NE to SW direction, so just over an hour later another run of 21 x 30 second exposures was taken. This second set hinted at an extension of the object pointing towards the SW, so in between taking images of comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann another longer run of 32 x 40 second exposures was taken, which clearly showed an 8" diameter coma and a short 15" tail in p.a. 245. All three runs were combined into the animation above, showing the elongation of the image to the SW (lower right).

Details of the apparent cometary nature of the object were sent off to the Minor Planet Center along with astrometry from the three runs. IAUC 8690 (subscription required) was published the next day announcing the new comet, together with descriptions of the object from the discoverer using the 1.5-m telescope at Mount Lemmon (diameter approximately 8", elongated in p.a. approximately 265, though no obvious tail) and Eric Christensen using the same telescope (condensed 8" coma and a 10" tail in p.a. about 245).

Preliminary parabolic orbital elements from the astrometry published in MPEC 2006-F20 indicated a perihelion in May 2007 at a distance of 1.9 AU with the comet brightening to 12th magnitude, but pre-discovery images from 10 Jan 2006 and further observations up to 29 Mar 2006 published in MPEC 2006-F49 show this comet to have a short (10 year) period with perihelion distance of 4.1 AU. It is unlikely to become brighter than mag +17, though with small eccentricity, it is possible that this comet may be visible by amateurs using CCDs throughout its 10 year orbit.

Computations using FindOrb indicate a close approach to Jupiter (0.01 AU) in Jan 2003, before which the period may have been about 40 years, with perihelion distance 4.9 AU, though further observations will help refine these details.


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