C/2002 V1 NEAT
The Great Binocular Comet of 2003
Closest to Earth  25 Dec 2002 at 0.79AU
Closest to Sun    18 Feb 2003 at 0.099AU
Maximum magnitude -0.5 in Feb 2003
Orbital period 29,000 yrs


2003 March 5.45 UT
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.

Comet C/2002 V1 NEAT survived its 15 million km approach to the Sun on Feb 18th 2003
and was later well placed for southern hemisphere observers.
I recovered the comet during the evening of 2003 Feb 24.43 UT using a pair of 25x100mm binoculars.
It was situated only 16 degrees from the Sun and shone at magnitude 2.
2 nights later I managed to capture it on a digital camera with 3x15 second exposures. (below)
The comet was 19 degrees from the Sun and had faded to magnitude 3.


2003 Feb 26.44 UT
Comet is at right. The star Fomalhaut in Pisces Austrinus is to the left.


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

Comet NEAT turned out to be a "great binocular" comet, the best since comet C/2000 WM1 LINEAR during late January 2002
In my opinion, the latter was the slightly more impressive comet.
The best views of C/2002 V1 NEAT occurred during the first week of March 2003
with the 3rd magnitude comet displaying a dust tail of high surface brightness, over 3 degrees in length.
However, it was rather difficult to observe due to its low elevation.


CCD Images of comet C/2002 V1 NEAT using a C11 telescope operating at f/3.3 and starlight express MX7c imager.
Above: 2003 March 1.44 UT 10x1 seconds. Digital development processing to reveal details in the coma.
Below: 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 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
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
Above: 50mm lens, 30 second exposure cropped, fuji 400 ASA.
Below: CCD image. 80mm lens and starlight express MX7c imager, 3x30 sec combined exposures.
Comet had further faded to magnitude 5.5.


The start of April 2003 saw the comet shining at 8th magnitude in Cetus.
The comet crossed into Eridanus on Apr 7th. By the end of the month it had faded to magnitude 10.

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)

Below are my observations in ICQ format