Astronomer Boattini spots seven in one year
Italian astronomer Andrea Boattini broke the record for the number of new comets sighted in one year when he spotted his seventh at Christmas.

The previous record had been held for some 150 years by Italian astronomers Francesco De Vito and Giovanni Battista Donati who in the mid-1800s sighted six comets in one year.

The new comet has the technical tag C/2008 Y1 but like the others has also been given its discoverer's name.

Boattini, 39, who works at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona, sighted the comet on December 22 during a search to spot comets and asteroids which could potentially pose a threat to the Earth.

''The latter half of this year has been very important for our group and resulted in NASA renewing its financing of our activities to the end of 2012,'' Boattini said.

NASA funds the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona dedicated to searching the skies for asteroids travelling near the earth.

The Italian astronomer also has 170 asteroid sightings under his belt and this year burnished his reputation further by finding the closest of those rocks to the Sun.

Boattini is an expert in comets and asteroids and specialises in Near Earth Objects (NEOs).