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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Comet visible in binoculars
Map BBC
Look for the comet in the dawn sky near the Great Bear
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Astronomers have been admiring a new comet which just failed to become visible to the unaided eye.

Comet Linear was discovered last year and was visible in binoculars as a faint fuzzy patch in the constellation of Perseus in the dawn sky.

Observers in high northern latitudes will have their best views during the next few days. After that, the comet will be more easily seen in the evening sky from temperate and tropical countries.

It has been three years since a highly visible comet graced our skies. But Comet Linear will not live up to the magnificent sights offered by comets Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp in 1997.

Automatic survey

Crossing into the constellation of Perseus, the comet is best seen from a location away from artificial lights. It will appear as a faint fuzzy patch that is tricky to see as the Sun rises.

Comet Veselka Radeva
Comet Linear as photographed by Veselka Radeva
Comet Linear was found by the automated Linear (Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research) sky survey based in New Mexico. It was found out near the orbit of Jupiter last September. At its closest, it will be 56 million km (34 million miles) from Earth.

The comet should be at its brightest on 23 July, just three days before it reaches its closest point to the Sun.

Albert Kong, who has been observing the comet from Oxford, UK, said: "The comet is easily seen through binoculars and it looks like a star-like object with a faint tail.

"I observed in a light-polluted area and I believe that it will look much better if you observe it in a dark site."

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