Some background: me and one other group in the USA (we’ll call them Frickin’AmanzingCometFinders – FACF for short) are both looking for these very strange and rare comets.
When I started my PhD in 2005, there had only been two of these comets found, and not much had been done to study them. Other investigators had done extensive searches for other such objects, but nothing had turned up. So, I was pretty stoked when I started because there was a good chance I was going to find one, and even if I didn’t I could put some sweet upper limits on the expected number (that’s considered a good result in Astronomy).
Six months after I started, a paper came out of the FACF group: they not only studied the two known rare comets extensively, but found another one — and published their results in Science.
Shit, right? I had an emergency meeting with my advisory committee to decide whether I should keep plugging along with this project or switch to something else. We decided, since my methods were different from theirs, that I should just keep going. And that I did.
I now have two different methods that I’ve used to search for these damn things. The first one I looked at 11,000 objects and found maybe, perhaps (but really unlikely) one more. BUT – the observations were done in 2007, so we couldn’t recover the object. It is lost.
Today, I get my daily message from the NASA ADS system listing new papers that I might be interested in. What do I see? Yeah, that’s right, another paper from the FACF group — they found another one. Shit.