COMET RESOURCE CENTER

CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS

Last updated: July 15, 2021

This page will list all the comets that I am currently observing, in west-to-east order from low in the western evening sky to low in the eastern morning sky. It will provide brief information about a comet's location, motion, and current brightness at the time of the update, as well as, when appropriate, notes about potential future activity. The page will also list any asteroidal objects I am following that might potentially be comets, and for the benefit of comet observers in the southern hemisphere it will also list those comets (and other objects) that are bright enough for observation but that are not accessible from the northern hemisphere. Comets (and other objects) that are expected to be 9th magnitude or brighter (and that are also easily accessible for observation) at the time of the given update will be highlighted in red print. Orbital elements and ephemerides for the comets and other objects listed here can be obtained via the Minor Planet Center's Ephemeris Service or via JPL Horizons. I expect to update this page on approximately a bi-weekly basis.

 

Comet Palomar C/2020 T2 (no. 697)

Having passed through periheion just a few days ago, this comet has remained near magnitude 10 1/2 for the past few weeks and for the time being is still the brightest comet that I am presently following. It is currently located in northeastern Virgo two degrees northeast of the star Tau Virginis and is traveling towards the southeast at half a degree per day; it passes half a degree northeast of the star Upsilon Virginis on July 28 and crosses into northwestern Libra on August 12. Now that the comet is receding from both the sun and Earth it will likely begin fading within the not-too-distant future, although I suspect this may be rather slow and gradual, and it will likely remain visible for at least a few more weeks.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 K2 (no. 699)

This large and distant comet -- located at a present heliocentric distance of 5.9 AU and still over 17 months away from perihelion passage -- went through opposition a month ago, and appears to have brightened some within the recent past, appearing as a small and relatively condensed object of 13th magnitude when I observed it a few nights ago. It is currently located in northeastern Hercules four degrees north-northwest of the star Rho Herculis (and two degrees south-southwest of the globular star cluster M92) and is traveling at 12 arcminutes per day, presently towards the southwest but curving more directly southward as it approaches its stationary point in early September; it passes two degrees northwest of the star Pi Herculis on August 2. Since it continues to approach both the sun and Earth the comet should continue to brighten slowly over the coming months.

Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke (no. 701)

Although now seven weeks past perihelion, this comet has remained near 12th magnitude ever since early June, and in fact was near magnitude 11 1/2 when I observed it a couple of mornings ago; its continued southward motion, however -- present declination -40 degrees -- is now starting to make observations from my latitude problematical, and I am probably done with it, although observers in the southern hemisphere should be able to continue following it. It is currently located in northwestern Phoenix 4 1/2 degrees southeast of the star Beta Sculptoris and at present is traveling towards the southeast at half a degree per day, although it slows down and curves more directly southward over the coming weeks as it passes through its stationary point on August 4 after which it travels towards the southwest; meanwhile it passes south of declination -45 degrees on July 26 and south of declination -50 degreess on August 11, passing 40 arcminutes west of the star Epsilon Phoenicis on July 28. The comet will likely begin fading within the not-too-distant future, but should remain visually detectable for perhaps another month or more.

Comet 4P/Faye (no. 703)

My tally's most recent addition has, as expected, brightened since I first picked it up last month, and appeared as a small and somewhat condensed object of magnitude 12 1/2 when I observed it a few mornings ago. It is currently located in southern Aries 1 1/2 degrees northwest of the star Omicron Arietis and is traveling slightly northward of due east at 40 arcminutes per day; it crosses into western Taurus on August 1. The comet is a little less than two months away from perihelion passage and is also approaching Earth -- and becoming better placed for observation in the morning sky -- and I expect a continued steady brightening over the coming weeks.

Comet 15P/Finlay (no. 702)

This comet just passed through perihelion a couple of days ago, and appeared as a relatively diffuse object of 11th magnitude when I observed it right around that time. It remains somewhat low in the eastern sky before dawn, being at a minimum elongation of 52 degrees at the end of this month, although its continued northward motion is gradually making it more easily accessible from the northern hemisphere. It is currently located in western Taurus five degrees south of the Pleiades star cluster (M45) and is traveling towards the east-northeast at slightly over one degree per day, although it gradually slows down and turns more directly eastward over the next few weeks; it passes half a degree south of the optical double star Kappa Tauri on July 23, ten arcminutes south of the star Tau Tauri four days later, and through the northern portion of the open star cluster NGC 1746 on August 1, then crosses into southern Auriga on August 16. Under ordinary circumstances the comet should presently be near its maximum brightness and accordingly should begin fading within the relatively near future, however it is worth noting that it underwent two significant outbursts during its previous return in 2014, and thus it is conceivable that it could do so again and/or exhibit other unusual behavior (including, potentially, fading away) during the coming weeks.

     

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY

NONE AT THE MOMENT

        

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