SPA members have continued discovering SOHO comets since the last newsletter. I discovered my third on January 24 and Michael Oates made an independent discovery of one on January 30 and a further discovery on February 7.
The evening of January 24 was clear and I went straight to the University of Cambridge Observatories after work to observe some known, but faint comets with the Northumberland refractor. Having completed the cometary observations I observed a few variable stars and then decided to have a quick look on the Starlink computer system to see if there were any new discoveries (there weren't). While logged on I downloaded the latest SOHO coronagraph images and immediately noticed a moderately bright sungrazer heading on its kamikaze path. It was so obvious that I assumed that someone else must have spotted it, but notified Doug Biesecker anyway. Later that evening I checked his web page and found that nobody else had found it and I had my third to demonstrate that the first two weren't flukes.
I gave a short talk about the Kreutz comets and my discovery at the Saturday SPA meeting on January 29 and encouraged people to give this method of comet hunting a go. Michael Oates took me at my word, downloaded a series of the high resolution images from the C3 coronagraph and put them into a movie loop himself. He soon spotted a moving object and gave me a call on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately Maik Meyer, a German amateur astronomer, had already spotted this one on the lower resolution real-time movie loops and I had posted the information on the web that morning so Michael couldn't claim an official discovery for this one. Persistence however pays off, and Michael picked up one of his own on February 7. This is a rather unusual object which may be a fragment of a split comet as three other similar finds were made around the same time. Michael deserves congratulations for his ingenuity in putting together his own movie sequence and discovering both comets. This technique will allow him to discover further comets as he can see fainter objects than everyone using the real-time movies. The challenge is on!
At the moment there are no particularly bright comets on view, and the one that promises to be bright in the summer is giving some concern. Just like comet Kohoutek an initial rapid brightening has faded away and we really don't know how bright it will get. It is still a long way from the Sun, so things may improve and there will be more information on this object in future newsletters. I leave for the Antarctic on February 14 and will be back at the end of March. You can contact me by email at email@example.com or by post c/o Rothera Station, British Antarctic Survey, Stanley, Falkland Islands, South Atlantic.