In an essay posted on his web site, Battams explains why the comet is so fascinating. Many researchers suspect 96P/Machholz is not a native of our solar system; some chemical evidence suggests it came from another star. Also, 96P/Machholz appears to be dynamically related (that is, the comet's orbit is related) to a diverse collection of other objects in the solar system including asteroid 2003 EH1 and the Quadrantid, Southern Delta Aquariid, and daytime Arietid meteoroid streams. All of these things--the asteroid, the comet, and the meteoroids--might be fragments of a single "foreign" body that broke apart thousands of years ago.
Comet 96P/Machholz will be visible in SOHO coronagraphs until July 17th. Battams believes the comet will reach a peak brightness of 2nd magnitude--not its best show. "But who knows," he says, "maybe Comet Machholz will do something completely and utterly unexpected like fragment into a swarm of Machholzlets." Join SOHO for a ringside seat.