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Canadian astronomer 'accidentally' discovers new Comet

Rob Cardinal was looking for an asteroid, but found a comet!

ONTARIO (BNS): Rob Cardinal of University of Calgary’s Rothney Astrophysical Observatory discovered a new comet, when he was in fact looking for an asteroid.

Cardinal sighted this new being in the Solar System. At present, the comet is visible only in the northern hemisphere, but it will later move to the southern hemisphere where it will appear brighter.

Using the observatory's Baker-Nunn telescope on October 1, Cardinal thought he saw some movement in the North Celestial Pole. Subsequent computer analysis of the images taken, showed a moving object faintly by visual standards. It was exceptionally bright for what was a suspected to be an asteroid.

After a few more pictures, it came to light that a never-before-seen member of the Solar System had been discovered. Astronomers in the US, Japan and the Minor Planet Center, at Harvard University, confirmed that it was a new comet. As per protocol, it was named after Cardinal and is officially designated as C/2008 T2 Cardinal.

“I was so excited when I found out. It’s satisfying to see your hard work pay off,” the astronomer said.

Phil Langill, the observatory’s director said Comet Cardinal is on a very unusual orbit compared to the normal Solar System objects. “It’s almost 60 degrees out of alignment with all the others. It is currently near the North Star,” he said.

Langill said that the new comets being discovered are found near a region of the sky called the ecliptic, because their orbits are similar to the orbits of the planets.


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