Serious comet chasers have been watching Comet C/2007 W1 (Boattini) for some time. For awhile, it exceeded its predicted brightness but is back to cruising at normal. During the time this photograph was taken, Boattini was a southern hemisphere object… But not for long. Now its about to round the Sun and head north!
On November 20, 2007 the comet was spotted by Andrea Boattini during the course of the Mt. Lemmon survey in Arizona. Italian Boattini’s interest is in near-Earth asteroids and he during his research has discovered and co-discovered no less than 170 mostly main-belt asteroids. Since that time, Andrea has become involved with the Catalina and Mt. Lemmon program and has made several additional asteroid discoveries. Of these, object 2007 WD5, made headlines during its extremely close approach to Mars at the end of January 2008. Comet C/2007 W1 is Andrea Boattini’s first comet discovery and we hope not the last!
Comet Boattini is sailing through our solar system in a long-period orbit with an oddly small inclination of 10 degrees. In the southern hemisphere, comet observers had a grand chance to watch as it passed 0.21 AU from Earth on June 12, and heads for inferior conjunction by June 15. Right now Comet Boattini is near fifth magnitude and easily seen without aid by experienced southern observers and it’s heading our way…
Comet C/2007 W1 will make its appearance in the northern hemisphere morning sky on July 15th in Cetus as a 7-8th magnitude observing target – easily within reach of small binoculars and telescopes. It will continue to sail north and fade as it heads away from the Sun (and Earth) and will return to a challenging 12th magnitude object. Spectacular? No. Interesting? You betcha’.
What makes Comet C/2007 W1 Boattini a little more special than the rest? Probably because the most recent orbital calculations show that this is W1 Boattini’s first visit into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud and it won’t be back for about another 63,000 years. While there’s very little chance that it will become another great “first visit” comet like Kohoutek, it’s a great opportunity for you to catch another traveler from the farthest reaches of our solar system.
Comet C/2007 W1 Boattini video and still photography provided by Dr. Joseph Brimacombe from Macedon Ranges Observatory.