Images of the unusual comet's close approach to the beautiful nebula in our Galaxy were obtained during the project of ESF “Noosfera” on astronomy "Discovery within a Week". The Comet 333P is remarkable as it was discovered as an asteroid in 2007, and was listed among the Near-Earth Asteroids over the next eight years. Meanwhile, the orbit of 2007 VA85 is typical for comets: perihelion near Earth (1.1 astronomical unit from the Sun), aphelion beyond Jupiter (7.3 AU), inclination to the ecliptic plane 132 degree and a period of 8.7 years. Three months before the perihelion passage 2007 VA85 revealed a short tail, and it was "renamed" to a comet P/2007 VA85. The object got the number 333P in the list of periodic comets and the name 333P/LINEAR in honor of the discoverers.
On the night of 30/31 of March, 2016, the comet 333P passed within 13 arc minutes from the center of NGC 1333 nebula located in Perseus constellation, near the border with Aries and Taurus. This beautiful nebula made the news in September, 2015. Siwss amateur astronomers Ch. Rusch, E. Eisenring, and R. Spaeni found that a part of NGC 1333 is changing its shape and brightness due to the varying illumination from two nearby stars of 16th-18th magnitude. On the next day the scientific advisor of "Discovery within a Week" project D. Denisenko found a much brighter variable star in that nebula that changes its brightness from 14m to 17m. Despite such large amplitude of variations, they had remained unnoticed over the decades. This finding shows once again that many remarkable objects in the sky are still waiting to be discovered. NGC 1333 is an example of such "treasure box". And the story of the comet 333P tells us that some asteroids are not what they seem to be.
The animation shows the motion of the comet 333P (at the bottom right) near NGC 1333 nebula over 20 minutes from 02:32 to 02:52 UT on the 31st of March, 2016. The images were obtained by D. Denisenko using 20-inch (0.51-m) T11 instrument of iTelescope Network in New Mexico. Observations were performed in the extreme conditions at the end of evening twilight. The object was at 48 degrees from the Sun, and the elevation above the horizon was quickly dropping from 33 to 30 degrees. A total of fifteen 60-second exposures were obtained. The first animation is a combination of 3 images aligned by the stars, the second one – the result of co-adding 7 images with tracking the motion of the comet. The colored picture is a comparison of NGC 1333 nebula in visual and infrared bands (digitized Palomar sky survey and 2MASS project, respectively).