Rob Cardinal and his findings
On October 1st, Rob Cardinal was searching around for an asteroid, using the observatory’s Baker-Nunn telescope, and thought he saw movement while observing a patch of sky near the North Celestial Pole.
While running a computer analysis on the images that were taken, it faintly showed a moving object. Taking a few more pictures a week later of the object, it was confirmed by other observations by astronomers in the U.S. and Japan and the Minor Planet Center, based at Harvard University, that it was a new comet. As is the custom, it was named after Cardinal and officially goes by C/2008 T2 Cardinal.
“I was so excited when I found out,” says the astronomer. “It’s satisfying to see your hard work pay off.”
Not much is known yet about the Cardinal comet but scientists are trying to determine more information about its orbit.
“The vast majority of the known comets, and the comets now being discovered, are found near a region of the sky called the ecliptic–that's because their orbits are similar to the orbits of the planets,” says Phil Langill, the observatory’s director. "Comet Cardinal is on a very unusual orbit compared to normal solar system objects–it’s almost 60 degrees out of alignment with all the others. It is currently near the north star. It was brilliant for Alan and Rob to search that part of the sky, because everyone else is looking where the likelihood of asteroid discovery is high."
Right now, the comet is only visible in the northern hemisphere until June. After that time it will be brighter and visible in the southern hemisphere.
Source/Image: Univ. of Calgary