C/2000 WM1 LINEAR
The Great Southern Binocular Comet of 2002
Closest to Earth on 2 Dec 2001 at 0.31AU
Closest to Sun on 22 Jan 2002 at 0.55AU
Maximum magnitude 2.5 in late January 2002

This spectacular comet experienced a major outburst at perihelion.
See below a light curve based on my personal observations.
Pre-perihelion calculated magnitude parameters. Ho=8, n=4 (red curve)
Post perihelion calculated magnitude parameters. Ho=6.4, n=6 (purple curve)

 
2001 Dec 3.
Photo of comet C/2000 WM1 LINEAR near closest approach to the Earth.
It was located in the evening sky in Cetus and shone at magnitude 5.8

By Jan 22, 2002, the comet was in solar conjunction and moving into the morning sky.

On the morning of Jan 30th (Jan 29.78 UT) 2002,
Comet LINEAR underwent a spectacular outburst at perihelion.
It appeared star-like to the eye at magnitude 3.0, in bright moonlight.
However, observing through 25x100mm binoculars revealed 2 bright jets emanating from opposite poles of the nucleus.
The brighter jet was 60" long in PA 250 while the fainter jet was 25" long in PA 120.



2002 Jan 31st (Jan 30.78 UT).
This image has been digitally developed to reveal the jets.
Visually, its appearance had changed considerably from the previous morning.
The 2 jets had now travelled down the length of the comet, forming a "dark lane".
Also a parabolic hood was evident.


Left: 2002 Jan 30.78 UT, Middle: Jan 31.78 UT, Right: Feb 4.78 UT
Larsen-Sekanina filter processed images of C/2000 WM1 LINEAR showing the evolution of the outburst.
The parabolic hood gave way to a more triangular appearance of the head in the space of 5 days.



2002 Jan 31.78 UT
50mm lens, 30 second exposure, fuji 800 ASA.
Sagittarius " the teapot" is to the left. Corona Australis is at centre.
Bright moonlight makes the background sky appear blue.


Left: 2002 Feb 4.78 UT Right: 2002 Feb 5.78 UT



Left: 2002 Feb 5.78 UT Right: 2002 Feb 6.78 UT
200mm lens, 2 minute exposure, fuji 800 ASA.
Dust tail length is 2 degrees.
Beta 1 and 2 Sco are stars at top of frame.



2002 Feb 12.78UT.
LINEAR C/2000 WM1 and Corona Australis.
Dust tail is about 4 degrees long, stretching towards Corona Australis.
Comet has faded to magnitude 4.5


2002 Feb 21.78UT.
LINEAR C/2000 WM1, Sagittarius "Teapot handle" asterism and Corona Australis.
Comet has faded to magnitude 6.0. Note globular cluster M55 to the lower right

Orbit of comet LINEAR on the date of outburst.
The comet was receding from both Sun and Earth.
Note that the orbit intersects the Earths orbit.
Had the comet arrived 2 months later, we would have had an exceptional view!

This Comet LINEAR is not expected to return.