Software helps astronomers find faint, tiny comet in deep solar system

Feb. 13, 2014 at 6:54 PM

PARIS, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A team of European astronomers reports software helped them see what the eye could not, a previously unknown comet orbiting the sun deep in the solar system.

The comet was unexpectedly discovered Feb. 1 during a routine set of observations using a telescope at the European Space Agency's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife, Spain.

The finding was officially announced by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, the international clearinghouse for all such discoveries, after eight other observatories confirmed the sighting.

The extremely faint, tiny object and its orbit was determined to lie between Jupiter and Mars, so it will not come close to Earth, a release from ESA headquarters in Paris said Wednesday.

The comet has been named P/2014 C1 "TOTAS" in recognition of the work of Europe's Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey team.

Astronomers said the discovery was in fact made by software, which compares successive images to find "movers" -- objects that move against the fixed star field background.

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