Thursday, 19 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Pigott`s Comet

Comet Pigott

Edward Pigott one of the ‘Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy’ also discovered a comet. On November 19th 1783 he noticed a small nebulous patch in the constellation of Cetus. He discovered the comet using a 2.5 feet long telescope made by Dolland. The comet was below naked eye visibility when discovered. Pigott last saw the comet on December 3rd 1783. Pigott was the first Englishman to discover a comet and have it named after him.

The comet was then lost to astronomers, this was because there were so few observations of the comet that it was not possible to work out the comet’s orbit. It was assumed to be a lost comet.
Then in January of 2003 the LINEAR survey found a “new” comet with their telescopes outside of Socorro, New Mexico.  The comet was designated Comet C/2003 A1 (LINEAR), a suggestion was made that it might be a return of long-lost Comet Pigott. Unfortunately, it was not possible to make a definite link between the 2003 LINEAR comet and Piggot’s comet of 1783.

On the night of September 10th 2009, Rich Kowalski of the Catalina Sky Survey was surveying the sky for unknown comet and asteroids when he came across a possible new comet. It was none other than Comet Pigott. When discovered in 1783 the comet was bright enough to be seen in a small telescope, today a powerful telescope is needed as the comet is around magnitude 17. Today we know that the comet has an orbital period of around 6 years.

In a 226 year period the comet has changed its name three times from comet Pigott, to comet Pigott-LINEAR, to comet Pigott-LINEAR-Kowalski.

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