How can I discover a comet?
Do you really need to be a professional astronomer to find our Solar System’s very own space snowballs?
Answered by Josh Barker from the National Space Centre
Amateur astronomy is an incredibly useful tool for comet discovery, with many found by people in their backyards using simple telescopes and binoculars. Comets and other transient objects, such as asteroids, can be tricky to spot even with the most advanced equipment. This is due to their low magnitudes. The easiest way to find them is to look for these dim shifting objects moving over the course of an evening or a few days. Most can be spotted using small telescopes and even a good pair of binoculars.
Our network of amateur astronomers is useful as it increases the amount of sky being observed. This increases the chance that these difficult objects will be found. Many prolific comet hunters have been amateurs, responsible for discovering comets such as Comet Lovejoy and Comet Borisov.
Image courtesy of NASA/MSFC/MEO/Aaron Kingery