Amateur astronomer discovers comet C/2013 N4 (Borisov) during a star party

Jul 15, 2013 by Bob King, Universe Today
Gennady Borisov, who lives in Naunchniy in Crimea, Ukraine, discovered the comet C/2013 N4 on July 8 during a star party. Borisov, 51, is a professional optician. He’s shown here with his two telescopes. Credit: Oleg Bruzgalov

Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered a brand new comet on July 8 near the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga. The comet was confirmed and officially christened C/2013 N4 (Borisov) on July 13. At the time of discovery, Borisov was attending the Russian-Ukrainian "Southern Night" star party in Crimea, Ukraine. He nabbed the comet – his first – using an 8-inch (20-cm) f/1.5 wide field telescope of his own design equipped with a CCD camera.

The new comet is on the faint side, appearing as a small, fuzzy patch of 13th magnitude with a brighter center. To see it you'll need at least a 10-inch (25-cm) telescope and the fortitude to rise in the wee hours before dawn. The reason for the early hour is Borisov's location in Auriga, a constellation that doesn't clear the horizon until shortly before the start of . Faintness and low altitude will combine to make Comet Borisov an enticing if challenging object for .

C/2013 N4 is currently traveling through Auriga not far from the easy-to-spot naked eye star Beta and will slowly brighten as it approaches perihelion – closest point to the sun – on August 20 at a distance of 113.5 million miles (182.7 million km). Unfortunately its elongation or separation from the sun will be slowly shrinking in the coming weeks, causing the comet to drop lower in the sky as it approaches perihelion. Our fuzzy visitor misses Earth by a comfortable 192.5 million miles (310 million km) on August 11. It's likely Comet Borisov won't get much brighter than 12th magnitude. Astronomers are still working out the details of its orbit, so it's possible brightness predictions could change in the near future.

Comet Borisov is the fuzzy spot with a brighter central region in this recent photo. Credit: Oleg Bruzgalov

Aside from how prominent or not Gennady's comet will become, the most amazing thing is that he beat the automated surveys to the punch. These days nearly all comets and many asteroids are found by professional astronomers using robotic telescopes hooked up to sensitive cameras and computers. Large areas of the sky are covered each clear night. If a fuzzy, moving object is detected by the computer, astronomers are alerted, follow-up observations are made and the new object receives a letter, number and the survey's name. That's why there are a plethora of comets in the past 15 years with names like LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Survey), Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System), LONEOS (Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search) and others.

By dint of persistence, a smart plan and a keen eye, Gennady Borisov has made his mark in the sky. For that he deserves a well-deserved congratulations and round of applause!

Amateur astronomer discovers comet C/2013 N4 (Borisov) during a star party
Animation of Comet Borisov compiled from multiple images. Credit: astronomamator.narod.ru/cometes/comet_anim.gif

Amateurs who wish to plot the comet on a star map using a star charting software program can get Comet Borisov's orbital elements HERE. To follow the latest developments, check out Leonid Elenin's blog. You might recall it was Elenin in 2010 who discovered famed comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin), blamed for everything from earthquakes to future world catastrophes. Instead, the proved so friable, it disintegrated as it approached the sun. Let's see how Comet Borisov fares.

Explore further: Study of equatorial ridge on Iapetus suggests exogenic origin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Comet Pan-STARRS: How bright will it get?

Sep 06, 2012

Early next year, a comet will come fairly close to Earth and the Sun—traveling within the orbit of Mercury—and it has the potential to be visible to the naked eye. Amateur and professional astronomers ...

Comet posing beside crescent moon in cool photo op

Mar 11, 2013

Now's your chance to see the comet that passed within 100 million miles of Earth last week. Twilight on Tuesday will provide the best photo op for the comet called Pan-STARRS. It will be visible in the Northern ...

How a sunset comet came to be

Mar 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —For a comet, visiting the sun is risky business. Fierce solar heat vaporizes gases long frozen in the fragile nucleus, breaking up some comets and completely destroying others.

Is a comet on a collision course with Mars?

Feb 27, 2013

There is an outside chance that a newly discovered comet might be on a collision course with Mars. Astronomers are still determining the trajectory of the comet, named C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), but at the ...

Recommended for you

Another fireball explodes over Russia

2 hours ago

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well at 6.6 million square miles it's by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help ...

NASA's MMS observatories stacked for testing

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories – ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...

Testing immune cells on the International Space Station

18 hours ago

The human body is fine-tuned to Earth's gravity. A team headed by Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy is now conducting an experiment on the International Space Station ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

Apr 20, 2014

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Another fireball explodes over Russia

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well at 6.6 million square miles it's by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...

NASA's MMS observatories stacked for testing

(Phys.org) —Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories – ...