COMET RESOURCE CENTER

CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS

Last updated: April 21, 2018

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 weekly basis.

                

Comet PANSTARRS C/2016 R2 (no. 628)

This comet is starting to get a bit low in the northwestern evening sky, and is currently located in northwestern Auriga, half a degree northwest of Zeta Aurigae, the southwesternmost star of "the kids." It is traveling towards the northeast at 20 arcminutes per day, and over the next week crosses through "the kids," and then will be located 2 1/2 degrees south of the star Capella at the beginning of May. Although just three weeks away from perihelion passage, the comet is now over four months past opposition and has been fading steadily, being only 13th magnitude when I last saw it a couple of nights ago. While it continues to exhibit some interesting tail activity in recent CCD images, this is at a lower level than it was earlier, and in any event this is no longer detectable visually.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2016 N6 (no. 638)

Now a month past opposition and its closest approach to Earth, this comet for the time being remains in northern circumpolar skies (current declination +64 degrees); it is currently located in eastern Camelopardalis two degrees south-southwest of 51 Camelopardali and is traveling almost due southward at half a degree per day, crossing into Lynx near the end of April. Although still three months away from perihelion passage the comet has been fading slowly but steadily during recent weeks, and was only magnitude 13 1/2 when I observed it a couple of nights ago.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2015 O1 (no. 621)

This comet was closest to Earth (3.23 AU) earlier this month and will be at opposition in a few days, and theoretically is close to its maximum brightness. To me, however, it seems to have faded slightly from a month or two ago, although it seems to be holding steady near magnitude 13 1/2 for the time being. Since it is now moving away from both the sun and Earth I nevertheless expect it to resume fading within the near future. The comet is currently located in south-central Draco four degrees north of Theta Bootis and is traveling towards the west-northwest at half a degree per day; in a couple of days it crosses into eastern Ursa Major.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2016 M1 (no. 629)

At this time this is the brightest comet that I am following. It is presently a morning-sky object, being located in southern Aquila just over one degree east of Kappa Aquilae; it is traveling towards the south-southeast at 15 arcminutes per day, although this speeds up and turns more southerly during coming weeks as it crosses into northeastern Sagittarius during the second week of May. The comet appeared as a relatively condensed object near 11th magnitude when I observed it this morning, and I expect it to brighten slowly over the coming weeks as it approaches the sun and Earth.

Comet 66P/du Toit (no. 640)

I have just added this comet to my tally, but I am uncertain if I will be able to observe it again before it becomes inaccessible from my latitude; when I saw it a few mornings ago it was only seven degrees above the horizon at the beginning of astronomical twilight, and this is rapidly decreasing. The comet is currently located in southern Microscopium two degrees southwest of Zeta Microscopii at a declination of -40 degrees; it is traveling almost due eastward at slightly over one degree per day and crosses into northwestern Grus just before the end of April. Both I and observers in the southern hemisphere are measuring a brightness close to 12th magnitude, and it should brighten a little over the next few weeks as it approaches the sun and Earth. Even though I will soon be unable to observe the comet, it remains reasonably well placed for viewing from the southern hemisphere, and if it maintains its brightness I should be able to observe it again during the latter half of June.

Comet 37P/Forbes (no. 639)

This recent addition to my tally is low in my southeastern sky before dawn, being presently located in central Capricornus 1 1/2 degrees south of Phi Capricorni; it is traveling towards the east-northeast at 40 arcminutes per day and crosses into eastern Aquarius after the first week of May. It is already noticeably brightening, and appeared as a vague, diffuse object near magnitude 12 1/2 when I observed it this morning; it should continue this brightening trend over the coming weeks.

Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)

This comet was in conjunction with the sun in late February and has been inaccessible since then. It is just now beginning to emerge into the morning sky, and although it's still a little bit too low for me at present, I'm hopeful that I might be able to attempt it within the next week. It is presently located in southwestern Pisces some seven degrees east-southeast of the "water jar" of Aquarius, and is traveling towards the east-northeast at 10 arcminutes per day. According to some recent low-altitude CCD images I have seen, it may have experienced some recent outburst activity, but seems to be relatively quiet for the time being.

Comet P/Scheila P/(596) (no. 624)

Having been in conjunction with the sun in early February, this object has also been inaccessible for the past few months. At present it is slowly emerging into the morning sky, although since it is south of the sun it may be another month or two before I am able to observe it. Scheila is currently located in southeastern Aquarius 3 1/2degrees north-northeast of 98 Aquarii, and is traveling towards the east-northeast at a little over 20 arcminutes per day; it should be close to magnitude 14 1/2.

 

          

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