Following the NEOs That Might Become Comets
I have already mentioned that it may be important in an activity like comet hunting to mix the search program with projects that can produce useful scientific data. In an “all or nothing” patrol where only a comet discovery is the aim the observer can rapidly become disillusioned with nothing to show from the search. Unlike with, say, supernova hunting, where a top hunter might average a discovery every 4,000 galaxy images there are no guarantees at all with comet hunting. An observer could spend his entire life looking for comets and get nothing. You only have to look at the example of the British discoverer Roy Panther, who spent 33 years sweeping for comets before he found one, on Christmas Day 1980, to realize how much patience can be required. So, to prevent total psychological burn out carrying out comet hunting as a secondary activity can be the key. I have already mentioned that comet recovery, rather than discovery, might be regarded as the next best thing to a genuine comet being found and I will be exploring the monitoring of outbursting comets in the Chap. 10. However, discovering that an object previously thought to be a new asteroid is actually a new comet is another option and a modest number of newly discovered fast moving objects, sometimes flagged as Near Earth Objects (NEOs), turn out to be comets on closer inspection. An image by the author of a fast moving, non-cometary, object, 2004 XP1, is shown in Fig. 9.1.