Discover a comet while on the Internet with SOHO
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: April 19, 2002

A new comet was discovered over the Internet by a Chinese amateur astronomer visiting the website for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. The comet "C/2002 G3 (SOHO)" was first reported on Friday, April 12, by XingMing Zhou of BoLe city, in the XinJiang province of China, who discovered the comet while watching SOHO real-time images of the Sun on the Internet. The comet is a new comet, not belonging to any known group.

Comet
The comet SOHO-422 was first reported on April 12, by XingMing Zhou of China, who discovered the comet while watching SOHO real-time images on the internet. The comet is a new comet, not belonging to any known group of comets. It will be visible in SOHO LASCO C3 images until April 20. Credit: NASA/ESA
 
SOHO, launched over six years ago as a project of international cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, has discovered more than 420 comets in just under six years. This makes the spacecraft the most prolific comet finder in the history of astronomy. Most of the comets were first spotted by amateurs around the world who downloaded SOHO's real-time images to their home computers. Anyone with Internet access can take part in the hunt for new comets and be a comet discoverer.

"From September 2000 to now I have been trying to find SOHO comets, and I've discovered 13 comets, one of which, designated '2001U9' and initially cataloged by the SOHO project as 'SOHO-367,' was the brightest one in the last two years," said Zhou, who previously spent more than 1,600 hours since his 1985 graduation scanning the heavens with his 15cm F/5.3 reflector telescope to discover a single comet.

"What's exciting about these near-sun comets is that we are exploring a population of comets that has never been seen before because they are very small and faint," said Douglas Biesecker, a solar physicist with L3 Com Analytics Corporation, Vienna, Va. "By the time their orbits take them close to the Sun so they become bright, they are lost in the Sun's glare and require a space-based coronagraph like that on SOHO to be seen." Biesecker, who is affiliated with the SOHO program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., confirms potential comet discoveries as they are posted to the SOHO website.

C/2002 G3 (SOHO) will be visible in SOHO's Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) C3 images until Saturday, April 20. The comet was first visible late in the day on Thursday, April 11. It entered the field of view at the bottom edge, almost directly under the Sun. It is moving upward to the left, and will eventually move back toward the right, exiting from the LASCO C3 field of view at the top edge, to the right of the Sun. First cataloged by the SOHO project as "SOHO-422," it has been officially designated C/2002 G3 (SOHO) by the International Astronomical Union.

The comet reached the point closest to the Sun in its orbit on April 17 at about 1:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, at a distance of about 7.6 million miles (12.3 million kilometers). As the week goes on, the comet will move through the field of view more quickly.

In all these images, the shaded disk is a mask in the instrument that blots out direct sunlight, making faint comets and the dim outer atmosphere of the Sun, or the corona, visible. The white circle added within the disk shows the size and position of the visible Sun.

Solar radiation heats the comet, which in turn causes the outgassing of its water molecules and dust. The dust scatters sunlight at visible wavelengths, making the comet bright in LASCO images. The water molecules break down into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, and the hydrogen atoms interact with the coronal plasma (electrified gas that comprises the extended atmosphere of the Sun).

All the SOHO images are freely available on the SOHO web site: http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/

Images and movies of the comet's passage are available at: http://soho.nascom.nasa.gov/hotshots/2002_04_15/

Apollo 11 special patch
Special collectors' patch marking the 35th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing is now available.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Inside Apollo mission control
An insider's view of how Apollo flight controllers operated and just what they faced when events were crucial.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Next ISS crew
Own a little piece of history with this official patch for the International Space Station's Expedition 11 crew. We'll ship yours today!
 Choose your store:
U.S.

Apollo 12 tribute DVD set

New! Featuring the jovial crew of Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 mission was struck by lightning shortly after liftoff but proceeded on the second successful exploration voyage to the lunar surface. This three-disc DVD brings the mission to life with extraordinary detail.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Fallen Heroes special patch
This special 12-inch embroidered patch commemorates the U.S. astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice, honoring the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Women in Space
Women of Space: Cool Careers on the Final Frontier is for girls, young women, and anyone else interested in learning about exciting careers in space exploration. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

ERROR: Random File Unopenable

ERROR: Random File Unopenable

The random file, as specified in the $random_file perl variable was unopenable.

The file was not found on your file system. This means that it has either not been created or the path you have specified in $trrandom_file is incorrect.
STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
 U.S. STORE

STS-133 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Discovery is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-133. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Anniversary Shuttle Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This embroidered patch commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The design features the space shuttle Columbia's historic maiden flight of April 12, 1981.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Mercury anniversary

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!


Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shephard's historic Mercury mission with this collectors' item, the official commemorative embroidered patch.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Hubble Posters
Stunning posters featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope and world-renowned astrophotographer David Malin are now available from the Astronomy Now Store.
 U.S. STORE
 U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE

Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).

Enter your e-mail address:

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.