Comet 1999 H1 (Lee)

Comet 1999 H1 (Lee) April 22 Comet 1999 H1 (Lee) May 19 Comet 1999 H1 (Lee) June 04

I got extremely lucky on the night of 16 April 1999 - I bumped into a new comet.

Discovery story

Here's the story of how I got lucky.

Discovery telescopeThe discovery telescope (102Kb). (Picture © Melissa Hulbert)


Some images of the comet.

These 2 (36Kb) images were take on 1999/04/22 at 10:34 UT and 10:44 UT and show the movement in just 10 minutes. Both were taken with my 306mm f/5 Newtonian and cookbook 245 CCD. The images have been scaled so that the comet appears more like it does when seen visually through a telescope. The field of view is approximately 14·5' × 10·8'.

Here is an MPEG movie (260kb) taken on 1999/04/24 for 58 minutes through my 306 mm Newtonian (same as above). It shows the motion of the comet quite well - but also shows the dreadful seeing I experienced that night (a cold front moved through that afternoon and it was certainly cold with lots of wind). A faint satellite goes through one frame. The variable background is due to the fact that the telescope is, as yet, completely unbaffled (and unfinished, too) but has been presssed into service for these observations. There was a bright moon shining onto the top end of the telescope and it was slightly protected by a cloth, which kept blowing about in the wind. Here is a picture of the telescope taken only a few days before the comet was discovered when it was first tried in the mounting.

These 2 (21Kb) images were take on 1999/05/19 at 09:19 UT and 09:44 UT and show both the dust tail and a sharp ion tail which has grown recently. Both were taken with the above telescope and processed for the same effect. These are the sum of 10, 1 minute exposures and shifted in software to align on the comet. You can, of course, bump up the contrast and make it look more spectacular. See this one and this one.

This image shows how the detail in the ion tail has changed in the past few weeks. Again the sum of 10, 1 minute exposures. See also how the apparent motion of the comet has slowed due to its increased distance from the Earth.

There won't be any more images of the comet from me for a while - the comet is now too far north for me to see.


Orbit and ephemeris.

Updated orbit and ephemeris taken from MPEC 1999-P18, Issued 1999 Aug. 6, 20:12 UT. IAUC 7233 notes that "The 'original' revolution period was about 21000 years". Further refinement of the orbit post-perihelion shows its orbital eccentricity is slightly less than 1·000000 which means that in many thousands of years time it can be seen again. I hope I'm around for it, but somehow I doubt it... (it's not even certain that "people" will be around then!)
Orbital elements:
    C/1999 H1 (Lee)
Epoch 1999 July 1.0 TT = JDT 2451360.5
T 1999 July 11.1721 TT                                  Marsden
q   0.708104             (2000.0)            P               Q
z  +0.000350       Peri.   40.7000      -0.5563267      +0.8169401
 +/-0.000006       Node   162.6490      +0.5665159      +0.2390426
e   0.999752       Incl.  149.3532      +0.6079148      +0.5248501
From 344 observations 1999 Apr. 16-Aug. 6, mean residual 0".7.

Ephemeris:
    C/1999 H1 (Lee)
Date    TT    R. A. (2000) Decl.     Delta      r     Elong.  Phase   m1    m2
1999 08 05    07 23.29   +38 23.1    1.585    0.866    29.7    35.5   7.4
1999 08 10    07 15.36   +40 15.9    1.524    0.924    36.1    40.3   7.6
1999 08 15    07 06.43   +42 14.8    1.453    0.987    42.7    44.1   7.8
1999 08 20    06 55.92   +44 23.0    1.375    1.054    49.6    47.0   7.9
1999 08 25    06 42.99   +46 43.2    1.291    1.123    56.8    48.9   8.1
1999 08 30    06 26.37   +49 17.4    1.204    1.193    64.5    49.8   8.2
1999 09 04    06 04.12   +52 04.8    1.117    1.265    72.8    49.6   8.3
1999 09 09    05 33.32   +54 58.3    1.033    1.337    81.8    48.2   8.3
1999 09 14    04 50.08   +57 36.3    0.957    1.409    91.7    45.5   8.4
1999 09 19    03 51.36   +59 13.3    0.893    1.481   102.4    41.5   8.5
1999 09 24    02 40.34   +58 42.7    0.848    1.553   113.8    36.2   8.6
1999 09 29    01 29.79   +55 19.3    0.828    1.625   125.0    30.3   8.7
1999 10 04    00 32.24   +49 27.5    0.837    1.697   134.6    24.8   8.9
1999 10 09    23 50.62   +42 22.4    0.877    1.768   140.8    20.9   9.2
1999 10 14    23 21.83   +35 16.0    0.944    1.838   142.4    19.3   9.5
1999 10 19    23 02.06   +28 50.9    1.036    1.908   139.8    19.7   9.9
1999 10 24    22 48.43   +23 22.8    1.147    1.978   134.8    20.9  10.3
1999 10 29    22 39.03   +18 51.4    1.272    2.047   128.9    22.2  10.6
1999 11 03    22 32.62   +15 09.7    1.408    2.115   122.7    23.3  11.0
1999 11 08    22 28.38   +12 09.4    1.552    2.183   116.6    24.0  11.3
1999 11 13    22 25.76   +09 42.8    1.702    2.251   110.7    24.3  11.7
1999 11 18    22 24.39   +07 43.5    1.856    2.317   105.0    24.3  12.0
1999 11 23    22 23.96   +06 06.0    2.012    2.384    99.5    24.1  12.3
1999 11 28    22 24.30   +04 46.3    2.170    2.449    94.2    23.7  12.6
1999 12 03    22 25.23   +03 41.2    2.329    2.515    89.1    23.1  12.8
1999 12 08    22 26.66   +02 48.0    2.486    2.579    84.1    22.3  13.1
1999 12 13    22 28.49   +02 04.9    2.643    2.644    79.3    21.5  13.3
1999 12 18    22 30.65   +01 30.1    2.798    2.707    74.5    20.5  13.6
1999 12 23    22 33.07   +01 02.3    2.950    2.771    69.9    19.5  13.8
1999 12 28    22 35.71   +00 40.5    3.100    2.833    65.3    18.4  14.0
2000 01 02    22 38.54   +00 23.8    3.245    2.896    60.8    17.2  14.2
2000 01 07    22 41.51   +00 11.4    3.387    2.958    56.3    16.1  14.4
2000 01 12    22 44.61   +00 02.8    3.525    3.019    51.9    14.9  14.5
2000 01 17    22 47.79   -00 02.7    3.657    3.080    47.6    13.6  14.7
2000 01 22    22 51.04   -00 05.3    3.785    3.141    43.2    12.4  14.9
2000 01 27    22 54.35   -00 05.6    3.906    3.201    38.9    11.1  15.0
2000 02 01    22 57.69   -00 03.8    4.022    3.261    34.7     9.9  15.2
2000 02 06    23 01.04   -00 00.3    4.132    3.320    30.4     8.7  15.3

Brian G. Marsden             (C) Copyright 1999 MPC           M.P.E.C. 1999-P18

Related links.

IAU Minor Planet Center. From where it's all coordinated.

Comet Wilson award. There's money in discovering comets these days.

Comet Observation Home Page. Charles Morris keeps an extremely useful page of images, ephemerides and comet related stories.

Gordon Garradd's homepage. Not only does Gordon do useful astrometry, he takes nice pictures, too.


Humour (I wish it was!).

It would seem that this comet is causing some concern amongst a couple of people who call themselves "The Millennium Group". They claim to be "searching for the truth in science" and for some reason believe that less than the truth is being told about the comet. They are claiming that the comet is errant in its path and that it is going to somehow hurt the Earth. They also have their own theory of what comets are. Nostradamus seems to have a hand in this too, apparently predicting this comet several hundred years ago. Even Velikovsky gets a mention. Of course any stories to the contrary are cover-ups, paid for by NASA (whom they claim is the leading propaganda agency) to protect their interests.

You can read more of their free thinking by visiting their web site. Perhaps you could send them an e-mail asking them to explain their strange ideas (in retaliation for the hundreds of e-mails that I've been sent!).

And for all you astrologers who have blundered onto my page, you can see a horoscope for the "birth" of the comet made by another free thinker here. And don't bother asking for my birth details - you won't get them either.

Needless to say I don't share their beliefs. FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO HEAR MY "OFFICIAL NASA ANSWERS" TO SOME OF THE QUESTIONS, CLICK HERE. I'm providing this information to try to stem the tide of questions I'm receiving - all of them asking the same things. (This page is made from answers I've provided to some of the e-mails I've received so may not read fluently - but I'm not about to waste more time than I need to on this.)


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E-mail any comments to me at sl@aaocbn.aao.gov.au

Page last updated 1999/08/23
Steven Lee