Halley's comet
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Halley's Comet
Rome - An Italian astronomer has kept up an amazing spotting streak with his ninth comet in just over a year.

Andrea Boattini, who broke the 150-year-old Italian record for comet spotting with seven last year, said he spotted the new body in the early hours of the night while he was scanning all the Near Earth Objects (NEOs) currently visible.

''I wasn't too sure it was a comet straight away because it was hazy but the skies cleared a bit later and allowed me to confirm the comet's nature,'' said Boattini, 39, who works at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona on a NASA programme to identify objects that could potentially pose a threat to the Earth.

The new comet has the technical tag C/2009 B1 but like the others has also been given its discoverer's name.

It belongs to the so-called Jupiter family, is in the Andromeda constellation, and approaches Earth once every 17 years, Boattini said.

''It will be observable for another two months, with a medium-sized telescope,'' he said.

Boattini also has 170 asteroids under his belt and recently burnished his reputation further by finding the closest of those rocks to the Sun.

The scientist is an expert in asteroids and comets.

He specialises in NEOs, of which there are four groups.

His latest asteroid was one of the very rare IEOs (Inner Earth Objects).

Asteroids and comets are both bits of space rock. The main visual difference between them is that comets have a tail.

Asteroids, which are dimmer, are found in belts that orbit the Sun, while comets have larger orbits and some pop out of the Solar System.

Two of the brightest and best-known comets are the Hale-Bopp Comet and Halley's Comet.