Kenneth S. Russell (U.K. Schmidt Telescope Unit, Australia) discovered this comet on a plate exposed by P. R. Standen with the 122-cm Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring on 1979 June 16.44. Russell initially estimated the magnitude as 17, but later changed it to 18. He described the comet as diffuse, with condensation, and exhibiting a slight tail. Standen obtained a confirmation photograph with the same telescope on June 24.45. Standen described the comet as diffuse, with condensation.
The first orbit computed for this comet was by M. P. Candy and it was published on July 3. It was an elliptical orbit indicating a perihelion date of May 30 and an orbital period of 7.43 years. Daniel W. E. Green (Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams) published a revised orbit on August 6 which indicated a perihelion date of May 27 and a period of 6.13 years.
During the discovery apparition, the comet apparently reached a maximum brightness of magnitude 17 during the latter days of June, but began fading thereafter. It was last detected on August 14.
The comet's first appearance following its discovery came in 1985. J. Gibson recovered the comet on 1985 April 9.24 with a CCD camera attached to the 1.5-m reflector at Palomar Observatory (California, USA). He estimated the brightness of the nucleus as magnitude 19.5 and noted a tenuous coma some 8-10 arc seconds across, with a possible tail extending about 20 arc seconds toward PA 70 degrees. Because of the comet's faintness, it was only followed until June 17.
Following the 1985 apparition, the comet passed 0.05 AU from Jupiter during August 1988. This acted to increase its perihelion distance from 1.61 AU to 2.18 AU. Considering the faintness of this comet, suggestions were made that it could become lost as a result of this orbital change. S. Nakano used 20 positions obtained between 1979 and 1985, and predicted the comet would next pass perihelion on 1991 January 4.54. Conditions were not particularly favorable for observing and the comet was not recovered. The comet was also missed at its 1998 apparition, when the maximum magnitude was only going to reach 22. The 2006 apparition was expected to be about as good as it could get for this comet, as the closest distance from Earth came at about the time the comet was closest to the sun. The maximum magnitude was expected to be about 19, but it was again missed.
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