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Reports from Geisei Observatory <May 5, 2004>

• C/2001 Q4(NEAT)
   On the last day of the successive holidays, I arrived at Geisei in about 50 minutes without experiencing traffic congestions.
    Although the sky was clear, the atmosphere was pale and milky, strongly reflecting the lights from the town, typical of spring time.
    Around 19:15 when the evening twilight had not completely ended yet, NEAT began to glow white in the eyepiece field of the 20cm telescope. When it became dark, the moon rose in the east and the comet was seen in the narrow gap between moonlight and twilight. It was approximately 4th magnitude and the coma was 10' across with its tail almost invisible.
    To be honest my impression of the comet was "it wasn't impressive". Compared with Comet Hale-Bopp, NEAT was not in the same league. However, its tail may look beautiful once it has risen higher in the dark sky. It was as good as Comet Mrkos (C/1957 P1) discovered in 1957, I thought. That year Comet Mrkos was visible to the naked eye just like Comet Arend-Roland which appeared in the same year. Comet Kohotek which appeared in 1973 was a disappointment, but NEAT seems to be far inferior. I have seen so many comets of this magnitude since 1950.
    On May 6 it was seen 5 degrees higher and looked better than May 5. The total magnitude was 3.6 and the tail was completely invisible. As it moves north, it may be at the limit of naked-eye visibility at the best. C/2002 T7 (LINEAR), which returns in late May, could be more promising.
    Long term forecasting of comets is not easy, is it?

C/2001 Q4(NEAT)
2-minute exposure from 20:24 on May 6
60cm f/3.5 reflector on TM400 film

Copyright (C) 2004 Tsutomu Seki.