eso9637-en-ie — Photo Release
Strange Comet Discovered at ESO
16 September 1996: On August 7, 1996, Eric W. Elst (Royal Observatory, Uccle, Belgium) reported his discovery of a cometary image on mid-July exposures by Guido Pizarro with the 1.0-m ESO Schmidt telescope at the La Silla Observatory. Further ESO Schmidt plates were then obtained, and on August 19, with the help of orbital computations by Brian Marsden (IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, Cambridge, Mass., USA), Elst was able to identify the object on them. Even though the orbit (Period = 5.6 years; inclination = 1.4 deg; eccentricity = 0.17) is entirely characteristic of that of a main-belt minor planet with the implied long-term orbital stability, the continued presence of a tail seemingly confirms the object as a 'comet'. The object now carries the designation 'Comet P/1996 N2 (Elst-Pizarro)'.