Volume 9, Number 2 September 7, 2001

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Sharp-eyed U of S alumnus discovers ‘Comet Petriew’

Comet Petriew isn’t yet as bright as Comet Hale-Bopp, above.   Photo by John Gleason

Little did Vance Avery Petriew realize when he studied physics and astronomy at the U of S in 1988-90, and later when he served as a lab assistant for Astronomy instructor Stan Shadick, that his name would join those of Halley and Hale-Bopp.

But the 1992 Physics B.Sc. graduate became a little more immortal than the rest of us the night of Aug. 18 at Cypress Hills Provincial Park in southwestern Saskatchewan, when he attended the Royal Astronomical Society’s Summer Star Party.

Lo and behold, while searching for stars, he noticed an object that didn’t belong in that part of the sky — and after some checking, and confirmation from current U of S Astronomy 212 lab assistant Rick Huziak, Petriew made a phone call to register a newly discovered 11th-magnitude comet.

Petriew found the comet near the star beta Tauri.  Shadick says subsequent observations by Alan Hale, of Comet Hale-Bopp fame, suggested Comet Petriew (numbered C/002 Q2) is moving toward the ESE at two arcminutes per hour. Shadick adds it is too early to tell how bright it may become.

Three days later, on the evening of Aug. 24, Petriew was advised that the comet’s orbit had been established and confirmed by the International Astronomical Union — and he was the first person in the world to see and register it.

“I now have a comet named after me,” Petriew told reporters excitedly.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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