Periodic Comet Machholz 2 (1994o) apparently has a sidekick! Michael Jager of Austria found a companion comet at about 1:00 Universal Time on August 28th, using an 8-inch Schmidt camera. At the time the faint companion was about 48 arc minutes to the northeast of the primary comet, in the same telescopic field, and moving in a parallel path through space. P/Machholz 2 has a Jupiter-crossing orbit, so it may have split some years ago during a close encounter with that planet. Meanwhile, the main part of Comet Machholz has brightened significantly. We've gotten several reports rating it as magnitude 7.3 to 7.6, several times brighter than predicted. Perhaps it is undergoing an outburst of some kind. Richard Diddick of Reheboth, Massachusetts, adds that it has a fan-shaped coma pointing roughly west. The companion is about magnitude 11. This "double comet" is visible in the predawn hours low in the eastern sky. It is currently in Lynx, heading toward Cancer. Here are positions for 0 hours Universal Time and equinox 2000 coordinates:
R.A. Dec. =============== Sept. 3 7h 51m +40.3 deg Sept. 5 8 00 +38.1 Sept. 7 8 08 +36.1 Sept. 9 8 16 +34.1
The dark spots left behind on Jupiter by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 continue to evolve, say observers. The smallest ones, like those caused by fragments A and C, have disappeared. Larger features, like impact L and the K/W and D/G/S complexes, have expanded considerably but have not faded very much. According to British observer John Rogers, the System II longitude of K/W is roughly 160-205 degrees, L is 225-260, and D/G/S is 285-328.