A good year to find a comet

Feb 13, 2014
Orbit of comet P/2014 C1 TOTAS. Credit: TOTAS

(Phys.org) —A team of European astronomers has found a previously unknown comet, detected as a tiny blob of light orbiting our Sun deep in the Solar System.

Europe's Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey team has been credited with discovering P/2014 C1, named 'TOTAS' in recognition of the teamwork involved in the find.

The comet was unexpectedly discovered on 1 February during a routine set of observations using the 1 m-diameter telescope at ESA's Optical Ground Station, Tenerife, Spain.

The confirmation was announced by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, the international clearing house for all such discoveries, on 4 February, after eight other observatories confirmed the sighting.

The tiny object is extremely faint, and its orbit was determined to lie between Jupiter and Mars – it will not come close to Earth.

"All comets are interesting especially as they are thought to have played a role in bringing water to Earth in the distant past," says Detlef Koschny, responsible for near-Earth object (NEO) activities at ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office.

"Later this year, Rosetta will meet up with another comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and study its nucleus and surrounding gas and dust, so it's especially fitting that a European team has found a new comet this year."

Comet P/2014 C1 (TOTAS) seen by the FRAM telescope (MPC code I47) on 4 February 2014. Image comprises a stack of four base images and is centred on the comet. FRAM is 0.3-m Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, f/10 with a CCD camera MII G2-1600. FRAM is located at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. Credit: FRAM/GLORIA/Martin Masek http://gloria.fzu.cz/en/

This latest discovery was, in fact, made by software, which compares successive images to find 'movers' – objects that move against the star field background. The find was confirmed by Rafal Reszelewski, working as part of the team to verify possible new objects automatically flagged by the software.

Since 2010, the TOTAS team has been working in collaboration with ESA's SSA office to conduct periodic sky surveys to find and confirm asteroids and other NEOs that orbit close to Earth. In 2011, it found asteroid 2011 SF108, which does much closer to Earth.

Explore further: Image: Rosetta's comet

Related Stories

Image: Rosetta's comet

Jan 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —ESA's Rosetta spacecraft woke up 20 January, after 31 months in deep space hibernation, to catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Amateur skywatchers help space hazards team

Oct 13, 2011

For the first time, observations coordinated by ESA's space hazards team have found an asteroid that comes close enough to Earth to pose an impact threat. The space rock was found by amateur astronomers, highlighting ...

Uppsala researchers study the transformation of a comet

Jan 24, 2014

In July, Rosetta is expected to send the first images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's nucleus, as seen from a large distance. The space probe will enter an orbit around the comet nucleus in August, where ...

Near-Earth asteroid is really a comet

Sep 10, 2013

Some things are not always what they seem—even in space. For 30 years, scientists believed a large near-Earth object was an asteroid. Now, an international team including Joshua Emery, assistant professor ...

Lost, potentially hazardous asteroid rediscovered

Oct 15, 2012

(Phys.org)—A potentially hazardous asteroid once found but then lost has been rediscovered and its orbit confirmed by a determined amateur astronomer working with ESA's space hazards programme. The half-kilometre ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

6 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

13 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

16 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

16 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

17 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
5 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2014
Would have been nice to add an arrow to piccy so we knew where to look...
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2014
Nik, here's a GIF loop of the comet: http://www.esa.in...1_TOTAS2

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.