Don Machholz provided the following account of his comet searching in a message to the comet mail list on 2008 May 6.
With my visual comet hunting activities for the month of April 2008, I have now completed 400 consecutive months of systematic comet hunting. I have spent at least an hour in each of the last 400 months searching for comets, averaging 18 hours per month. It all began in late 1974, when I got out of the military and wanted an observing project that would keep me looking through the telescope. By then I had already learned my way around the sky, done some astrophotography, and (beginning the week I graduated from high school, in 1970) had even comet hunted various areas of the sky. By late November 1974 I had decided to pursue comet hunting. I felt it was a win-win situation, if I did not enjoy comet hunting, I could quit at any time, losing only the time that I had spent looking through the telescope! And if I did enjoy it, I would be spending time observing the night sky. I began systematic searches January 1, 1975. I decided early on that I was running a successful program if I got out to hunt for comets on a consistent basis, meaning patrolling the sky each month. Within a few months I was beginning to integrate comet hunting into my everyday life. I enjoyed the challenge. During the past 33 years my comet hunting program has continued. It has endured despite three relocations (all in Northern California), depressed energy levels, elevated energy levels, three minor surgeries, three career changes, getting and staying married for 28 years and raising our two sons, and, for 80% of the time, employment situations that required me to be at work early each morning. I have been blessed with typically good weather in Northern California for these past three decades. Even in the winter, we will still have a couple of clear moonless nights each month. I'm thankful that my family has been supportive of my comet hunting activities, and that most of this work is done at night, when everyone else is asleep. A disciplined upbringing has helped too. To date I have done 7,430 hours of comet hunting. I count only the time that I am actually looking through the eyepiece and moving the telescope. These hours have taken 3,920 sessions, averaging nearly 2 hours each. I've seen 11,600 meteors through the eyepiece, recording the magnitude and path length data for most of them. I am in the process of transferring the data to an Excel spreadsheet, this is 20% done, and will take me about 80 more hours to complete. I'll publish it on my website when I'm done. I have discovered 10 comets that bear my name. Probably the most interesting was one I found in 1986, Periodic Comet Machholz 1, now known as P/96. It has a 5.24 year orbit, has possibly given birth to other comets and meteor showers, and is the brightest periodic comet on a regular basis, reaching magnitude 2 or brighter on every orbit (although from the earth it is in solar glare). To my knowledge, no other periodic comet gets that bright on each of its visits. I continue to comet hunt at the rate of about 100 hours per year. A list of each month's comet hunting activity can be found at this web site: www.thecomethunter.com. Don Machholz, Colfax, CA.