Discovered on Aug. 24, 2001 by the Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking program (hence the acronym "NEAT"), C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) will be visible in the evening sky starting in early-May. Although it will be visible into June and July, it will only be relatively bright during mid-May. Predicting the brightness of a comet, however, is like predicting the weather!
In anticipation that the comet will be as bright as predicted, the UM Observatory has decided to have special observing sessions for the public to the view the comet.
What:Observe Comet NEAT
When: 11, 12, 13, 14 May
Time: sunset (~8:15pm) until comet disappears behind the trees
Where: UM Observatory
Go/no-go decision: on the website (reload* to get the updated page) and on the Obs. Info. line after 6pm. (DO NOT call before that time!)
* press the shift and ctrl keys on your keyboard and click on reload or refresh at the same time to force your browser to actually reload the page
From the main observatory, our WSW horizon is completely blocked by trees, so instead, we will be using our smaller telescopes up by the lecture hall or possible even in the parking lot. Therefore, people will need to park across the street at the Systems Admin lot. Only handicap parking will be available in the Observatory lot.
Is the Observatory the only place to view the comet? Absolutely not! In fact, going away from the city lights and finding a location with dark skies and a good southwestern horizon is a better option.
Do you need a telescope? No, it will probably look best in binoculars!
Cautionary note: Because the comet is setting as it is getting dark, we may not be able to view it for very long. We hope to gain an advantage by using smaller telescopes further from the trees on our western horizon in order to give us a better view, but eventually, the comet will set into the trees or haze on the horizon. We cannot guarantee that everyone who shows up will have a chance to see the comet. In addition, this is dependent on the weather. If it becomes cloudy (or even so hazy that the comet is no longer visible), we will have to close for the evening.
We are still working on some of the logistics, so please check the Observatory website for the most up-to-date information about this special observing session.
Information: Check the Observatory web site at