During the evening of November 6, 2002, astronomers using the 1.2-meter reflector at Haleakala, Hawaii, discovered a 17th-magnitude comet as part of the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program. Designated Comet NEAT (C/2002 V1), it brightened quickly through December, leading to a suggestion that at perihelion on February 18th, it could become quite bright (though largely swamped in the Sun’s glare). Currently estimated to be magnitude 6.8, the comet can be seen in the western sky after sunset, just below the Great Square of Pegasus.
However, according to comet expert John Bortle, the future of Comet NEAT is unclear. During the second week of January, the comet’s activity has been shrouded in moonlight. Since its coma is very large and diffuse, no one is quite sure just how bright it currently is. Realistic forecasts for the comet’s immediate future aren’t possible until observations can be obtained in a moonless sky.
According to Bortle, there is “the possibility that the comet will briefly become visible telescopically during the daytime within a day or two either side of perihelion passage ï¿½ an event that has not occurred since Comet West rounded the Sun in the winter of 1976!” But don’t get too excited ï¿½ more will be known about this comet’s future within the next few days.
From: Sky and Telescope