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

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

35 minutes ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

3 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

6 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

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

More news stories

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...