New Comet Discovered from Mauna Kea
While searching for "killer asteroids" on Halloween night, IfA
postdoctoral fellow Fabrizio Bernardi found a new comet, the first discovered
from Mauna Kea Observatories.
"While studying images I had taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope,
I noticed an object with a faint tail. I checked to see if there were any
known comets in that part of the sky, and was surprised to find that there
were none," said Bernardi.
"I consulted with my colleagues David Tholen, Andrea Boattini, and
Jana Pittichová, and we decided to monitor the object for a few
nights. Having confirmed that it was a comet, we reported the find to the
International Astronomical Union."
The comet is now officially "P/2005 V1 Bernardi" after its discoverer.
The comet, which orbits the Sun about once every 10 years, does not come
close enough to Earth to be visible to the naked eye. When discovered,
it was about 280 million miles away from Earth—almost three times
the distance from Earth to the Sun. The length of its tail is estimated
to be more than 13,000 miles.
Bernardi is working with Tholen, a UH astronomer who heads a NASA-funded
program, to find asteroids that pass close to Earth and are therefore potentially