History of Ikeya-Zhang
February 1, 2002
In Japan, Kaoru Ikeya, discoverer of the comet Ikeya-Seki of 1965(see Comet List for more), found a small object in the sky. He was to be treated to another comet discovery. Shortly after in China, Daquig Zhang also spotted the comet.
Scientists quickly went to work on magnitude estimates and Ikeya-Zhang's path through our solar system. The comet will approach the sun and be at perihelion, closest to the sun, on March 18, 2002.
Magnitude estimates are expected to put the comet at about a magnitude 4 or 5 at the brightest. Some sources even say that Ikeya-Zhang may be as bright as magnitude 3. There is no guarantee that the comet will reach this brightness. If we look at the last two LINEAR comets we can see this/ Comet LINEAR C/2001 A2, was expected to put on quite a show during the summer of 2001. Hopes were raised as increased activity on the comet as bursts caused it to brighten. However, this comet was a very faint and left astronomers a little disappointed. Comet LINEAR C/2000 WM1 was also expected have been a very bright object, but only became a binocular object from dark skies. Then in late January the comet burst to life and hit a magnitude around 3. Southern sky watchers were treated to a great show. We can only hope that this comet will reach or exceed the predicted brightness.
The websites I have viewed predict that the Northern Hemisphere may have some degree of difficulty spotting the comet in February as it will be low in the western sky as the sun sets. As we enter March the comet will be in the sky for about an hour after sunset. In April we will see the comet become a morning object. Sky and Telescope states in their article that, "Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere will likely get their best views in late April".
At first Bortle from Sky and Telescope relate this comets path to that of the comets of 1532 and 1661. From my findings the 1532 comet C/1532 R1 was a bright appearance that lasted several weeks. It was in the skies from September to December and had a peak magnitude of -1. The recent orbital analysis show that Ikeya-Zhang is the same comet as 1661. The initial thought of the 1532 comet being the same as Ikeya-Zhang came from the close similarities between 1532 and 1661's orbits. Thoughts on previous sightings before 1661 are being related to the comets of 1273 and 877.
I have now had the opportunity to see this comet. It is a wonderful object to view. Visit my Observations: page to read my accounts.
Helpful links related to Comet Ikeya-Zhang
images contact Christie Ponder
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