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Discovered March 11, 2002
Palominas, Arizona

Thumbnail Images of the comet
(Click to view full size)

View part of the comet's journey - a movie of 30 images that show its movement over an hour's time on the morning of March 31, 2002.  Allow several minutes for the file to down-load - it is about 880Kb. But NEAT!

Two of the images taken from Palominas Observatory. The image taken on March 18 is courtesy of Dr. Tim Hunter - this is a tri-color image taken in Tucson, AZ.


Two Newly Found Comet Images & Path of the Comet
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Image on the left taken by J. Skvarc; on the right by H. Mikuz, both working at the Crni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia.
The center illustration shows the path of the comet from December 2002 to the end of November 2003. The distance from the Sun that the comet covers during this time is from 355 million miles to about 657 million miles. The chart shows the comet's path  (the white curving line) starting near the constellation  Draco, passing through Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, and back towards Cassiopeia. At the start of 2003, it is very faint and as the year progresses, it will become even much fainter as it glides away to the outer reaches of the Solar System.

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More images of the comet, its long term path through the solar system, and a photo of Mr. Shigeki Murakami, co-discoverer.


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October 20, 2002: photo of the plaque received from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the discovery of the comet. This is a very nice plaque, looks much better than the photo, and fits nicely in the observatory!

Comet Discovery At Palominas Star Haven Observatory

Update 01/13/03: The period of the orbit is still not determined (it's in the  thousands of years) and the comet is nearing 355,000,000 miles away from Earth. I can't see it visually even with our 20" telescope in the observatory, but each time I look up towards the area of the North Star, I know just where its at and am so glad it has paid us a visit and is now on its way back home, a round-trip journey of billions of miles!

Update 9/25/02: Comet Snyder-Murakami is now about 300,000,000 miles north of Earth, so there is not much chance of an impact, at least on this go-round.  The period of the comet is still not known, as its orbit probably takes this comet way out into the 'Oort Cloud'.  The comet is still located in the constellation Ursa Minor, and not too far from the 'bowl' of the Little Dipper.

Update 5/16/02: The comet, while still visible in moderate sized amateur telescopes, is getting fainter as it recedes from the inner Solar System. It's current distance from Earth is about 150,000,000 miles, and is located between the orbits of Earth and Mars.  It will continue to head north in our skies, and will be in the constellations Draco and Ursa Minor (the little bear) for the next few months (See the latest chart of its path above). For more orbital information and a neat JAVA applet showing the comet's position and current known orbit, visit JPL's Near Earth Object web site.

Update 4/13/02: With more observations of the comet being done nightly, the orbit is slowly being refined.  As of today, the comet's orbit appears to be 'hyperbolic' rather than an 'ellipse'.  An 'elliptical' orbit is a closed orbit, similar to that of Earth, other planets, and most known comets.  A hyperbolic orbit is one in which is open ended, and for all practical purposes, an object in this type of orbit will never return to our solar system again!  

In the early morning hours of Monday, March 11, 2002, I was observing our beautiful Arizona night sky in the constellation Aquila (The Eagle) rising in the east.  This is a constellation is which a good portion of the Summer Milky Way is visible.  It was not too long before sunrise, so I was just moving the telescope around and looking at some glorious collections of stars when I came across a faint patch of light that none of the current astronomy catalogs showed.  I watched this 'object' for awhile, and over a period of about 1/2 hour, I noticed that is was slowly moving to the north.  This was possibly an undiscovered comet!  Well, to make a long story short, I was in contact with the International Astronomical Union before too long and within the next day, they confirmed that this was a comet discovery!  I had found it none too soon, because just a few hours later, an amateur astronomer in Japan (Shigeki Murakami) also found it.  The name has officially become Comet Snyder-Murakami after the orbital elements were calculated by astronomers at the IAU . The comet also has the  designation of C/2002 E2.
This is such a rare and rewarding event, and I am still so overwhelmed at my luck in finding it.  This is the first comet visually discovered in the United States in almost four years. Once more is known about this comet, then I'll add more information on a new page and of course include some pictures. Information on its position in space and it orbital elements for those with astronomy software programs that accept such numbers can be found at this web site: 

As far as anyone knows, this is the first comet discovery ever in Cochise County, Arizona, and the first visual comet discovery within the United States in four years.  Most comets these days are discovered by CCD cameras (digital) attached to telescopes.

Right now (March 16), this comet is visible only through a telescope as a morning object,  It does not appear that it will brighten to any degree, but will remain at a consistent brightness (approximately magnitude 10) for several weeks. The comet is still continuing north in the sky, presently in the constellation of Aquila, then passing through Sagitta and into Vulpecula by the end of March.  In early April, it will enter Lyra.  We'll certainly keep it in view and let you know what is going on with it!

Doug Snyder is a member of the Huachuca Astronomy Club of Southeastern Arizona



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