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

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

Don Machholz, Colfax, CA.