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New Comet Discovered from Mauna Kea
While searching for "killer asteroids" on Halloween night, University of Hawaii astronomer Fabrizio Bernardi found a new comet, the first discovered from Mauna Kea Observatories.
"While studying images I had taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, I noticed an object with a faint tail. I checked to see if there were any known comets in that part of the sky, and was surprised to find that there were none," said Bernardi.
"I consulted with my colleagues David Tholen, Andrea Boattini, and Jana Pittichová, and we decided to monitor the object for a few nights. Having confirmed that it was a comet, we reported the find to the International Astronomical Union."
The comet is now officially "P/2005 V1 Bernardi" after its discoverer.
The comet, which orbits the Sun about once every 10 years, does not come close enough to Earth to be visible to the naked eye. When discovered, it was about 280 million miles away from Earth—almost three times the distance from Earth to the Sun. The length of its tail is estimated to be more than 13,000 miles.
Bernardi is working with Tholen, a UH astronomer who heads a NASA-funded program to find asteroids that pass close to Earth and are therefore potentially dangerous.
The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea.
Established in 1907 and fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the University of Hawaii is the state's sole public system of higher education. The UH System provides an array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees and community programs on 10 campuses and through educational, training, and research centers across the state. UH enrolls more than 50,000 students from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, and around the world.