Believe it or not, comet hunting is a really serious sport among astronomers, and being able to spot the first comet of the New Year is a pretty big deal.
In 2022, the honour of spotting the year’s first comet goes to a Hungarian astronomer named Krisztián Sárneczky, who is the third-ever Hungarian astronomer to have a comet named after them.
Sárneczky, the astronomer at the Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, spotted the comet in the early hours of January 2 with the help of the 60 cm Schmidt telescope of the Piszkéstető Observatory, RTL reports.
The Hungarian astronomer had managed to take three photos with 104 seconds of exposure; he concluded from them that what he discovered was a so far unknown, small comet.
The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams had reported the following: “Krisztián Sárneczky, Konkoly Observatory, reports the discovery of a fast-moving comet during a visual inspection of three stacked 104-s unfiltered CCD survey images.”
“The object shows a compact inner region (condensed false nucleus) about 8″ x 10″ in diameter and a fan-shaped tail at least 20″ long in a westward direction. On a 312-s stacked image, there is a faint outer diffuse coma about 40″ in diameter, with two jets in p.a. 230 and 350 deg.”
Interestingly, the last time a Hungarian had discovered a comet was 36 years ago with about a week’s difference. Miklós Lovas discovered the comet in 1986 using the same telescope Sárneczky used.
Since Sárneczky was the first to discover this particular comet, it was named C/2022 A1 (Sárneczky).
Additionally, Sárneczky had discovered an asteroid in 2017 which bears his name (10258 Sárneczky) and helped co-discover over 379 numbered minor planets and 5 supernovae.
According to the discoverer, the next time we could see this comet would be over tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years in the future, but some calculations are still underway, Index writes.
National Geographic reports that the comet is small and very fast, and it has a retrograde motion to Earth. It will be closest to the Sun at the end of January.
Even Maik Meyer, the discoverer of the Meyer comet group, congratulated the Hungarian astronomer on Twitter.
First Hungarian-discovered comet in a looooooong time! Huge congrats!!— Konkoly Observatory (@konkolyobs) January 7, 2022
(Tho I think it counts as a professional discovery since this came out from his long-running search program with our 60/90 Schmidt telescope.) https://t.co/MlUWP9BkTC
Source: Rtl.hu, index.hu, ng.24.hu