C/2002 V1 NEAT
The Great Binocular Comet of 2003
Closest to Sun on  18 Feb 2003 at 0.099AU
Closest to Earth on 25 Dec 2002 at 0.79AU
Maximum magnitude -0.5 in Feb 2003

Comet NEAT survived its 15 million km approach to the Sun on Feb 18th 2003 and was later well placed for southern
hemisphere observers. See below a light curve based on my personal observations.
The red curve is based on predicted magnitude parameters of Ho=7, n=4
The comet brightened rapidly from Dec 02 to mid Jan 03 but rate slowed during Feb and a peak of -0.5 was reached.
Post perihelion, the comet faded slower than expected and my calculated magnitude parameters were Ho=6, n=3.1
(purple curve)


I recovered comet C/2002 V1 NEAT, post-perihelion on the evening of Feb 24.43 UT using a pair of 25x100mm binoculars.
It was situated only 16 degrees from the Sun and shone at magnitude 2.


2003 Feb 26.44 UT
2 nights later I managed to capture it on a digital camera with 3x15 second exposures.
The comet was 19 degrees from the Sun and had faded to magnitude 3.
The star Fomalhaut in Pisces Austrinus is to the left.


2003 Feb 28.44 UT
50mm lens, 30 second exposure cropped, fuji 400 ASA.


CCD Images of comet C/2002 V1 NEAT using a C11 telescope operating at f/3.3 and starlight express MX7c imager.
Left: 2003 March 1.44 UT 10x1 seconds. Digital development processing to reveal details in the coma.
Right: 2003 March 4.44 UT 4x10 seconds. Image processed to draw out the ion tail streamers running through the dust tail.


2003 March 4.45 UT
50mm lens, 30 second exposure cropped, fuji 400 ASA.
Comet was situated in Sculptor and was visible to the unaided eye at magnitude 4.3
The bright golden dust tail stretched over 3 degrees in length through 7x50mm binoculars.


2003 March 5.45 UT
Left: Colour CCD image of comet C/2002 V1 NEAT. 80mm lens and starlight express MX7c imager, 3x30 second exposure.
Note the faint ion tail (type I) to the right of the broad curving dust tail (type II) and the rare type III dust trail at lower left.
Right: 50mm lens, 1 minute exposure,  fuji 400 ASA. Galaxy NGC 253 is visible at right of photo. Alpha Phe is at upper left


2003 March 10.46 UT
Left: 50mm lens, 30 second exposure cropped, fuji 400 ASA. Comet had faded to magnitude 5.5.
Right: CCD image. 80mm lens and starlight express MX7c imager, 3x30 sec combined exposures.

This comet has an orbital period of 29,000 yrs