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Appendix 2: Astronomical and comet names used in the Comet River area

Notes by John Moran, of National Museums Liverpool’s Planetarium. 

  • The town of Comet sits on the Capricorn Highway
  • It was named after the Comet River.
  • The river was named after Ludwig Leichhardt’s observation of a comet during his travels through Queensland in 1844-1845.
  • First observed by Fr. Francisco De Vico (August 23rd, 1844).
  • Comet 54P/ de Vico-Swift-NEAT has become a lost Comet several times since.
  • Sometimes the discovery of a new Comet turns out to be a rediscovery of a previously lost Comet, and this has happened once or twice with De Vico-Swift-NEAT.
  • Some Comets change their path either because the Comet has been perturbed through the gravitational interference with say Jupiter OR the emission of gas jets from the Comet itself is sometimes enough to slightly alter its trajectory. 

Comet 54P/ de Vico-Swift-NEAT

Francesco de Vico (Rome, Italy) discovered this telescopic comet during a routine search for comets on August 23rd 1844. It was then situated in Aquarius and was 0.20 AU (Astronomical Unit, distance of earth to the sun which is 93 million miles) from Earth and 1.19 AU from the sun. He confirmed his find on August 24th. Independent discoveries were made by other leading astronomers later that year. Edward Swift rediscovered this comet on November 21.1894. It was then situated in Aquarius and was described as very faint, with a small nucleus and a faint, short tail. Even before an orbit was published, A. Berberich suggested the comet might be the same as de Vico's comet on the basis of the comet's location and direction of motion.

K. Lawrence, S. Pravdo, and E. Helin (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, USA) announced the discovery of a comet on images obtained on 2002 October 11.22 by the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program at Palomar Observatory (California, USA). The comet was designated comet P/2002 T4. 

K. Muraoka (Kochi, Japan) very quickly identified this comet as a return of comet 54P/de Vico-Swift. This was confirmed by Marsden, who then published an orbit with a perihelion date of July 30.94 and a period of 7.31 years.

Places along the Comet River with astronomical names. 

  • Canopus Downs  (Canopus is a star in the southern hemisphere constellation of Carina and is also the second brightest star in the whole night sky after Sirius.)
  • Planet Downs
  • The Crater
  • Mount Ceres (Ceres is a large asteroid. It used to be classed as a Minor Planet but is now designated as a Dwarf Planet.)
  • Pluto Timber Reserve
  • Capella (Brightest star in the constellation Auriga)
  • Comet River
  • Orion Creek
  • Sirius Creek (Brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major and also brightest star in the whole night sky)
  • Minerva Creek (Minerva is a triple asteroid in the main asteroid belt).
  • Comet Downs
  • Satellite Creek
  • Aldebaran Creek. (Aldebaran is a red giant star and is the biggest star in the constellation Taurus).
  • Meteor Creek
  • Boótes Creek (Boo-er-tees, The Charioteer, is a summer constellation).
  • Vesta (A large asteroid)
  • Planet Creek
  • Taurus Creek (A winter constellation representing the Bull).
  • Sagittarius Creek
  • Cosmos
  • Leichardt Downs
  • Mount Castor
  • Mount Pollux (Both Castor and Pollux make up the twins of the constellation Gemini.)

Schools with astronomical names near the Comet River 

  • Comet School off the Capricorn Highway
  • Capella Preschool, Burn Street, Capella 
  • Capella Primary School. Huntley Street, Capella 
  • Capella Secondary School. Gordon Street, Capella 
  • Orion Primary School. Ten Chain Rd Orion via Springsure
  • Springsure Pre school & Springsure Primary school on ECLIPSE ST.