COMET RESOURCE CENTER

CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS

Last updated: August 14, 2019

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 68P/Klemola (no. 665)

For the time being, this remains my sole evening-sky comet; it went through opposition in mid-June and was closest to Earth (1.25 AU) in mid-July, but is still a little less than three months away from perihelion passage. It is located in central Ophiuchus five degrees west-northwest of the star Mu Ophiuchi and, having just gone through its stationary point two weeks ago, is traveling towards the southeast, presently at slightly less than 15 arcminutes per day but increasing to 20 arcminutes per day by the end of August; it crosses into Serpens Cauda during the first week of September. The comet appeared as a small 14th magnitude object when I first picked it up just before the end of July, and due to weather and moonlight I have not observed it since then; at most I expect just a marginal brightening over the coming weeks.

A/2018 V3 [not a comet]

I have been taking images of this object -- which I discuss on the "Upcoming Comets" page -- with the Las Cumbres Observatory network since late June, and successfully picked it up visually a couple of mornings ago as a 15th magnitude stellar object. It is presently in the process of making its pass by Earth, being at opposition on August 18 and nearest Earth (0.37 AU) the following day, around which time it should be a few tenths of a magnitude brighter than it is now. At present it is located in southeastern Aquarius some six degrees north-northeast of the bright star Fomalhaut and is traveling towards the west-southwest at five degrees per day (increasing to almost six degrees per day around the time of closest approach); it crosses into Piscis Austrinus on August 15, into Microscopium four days later, and then into eastern Sagittarius on August 21. One day later it reaches its farthest south point (declination -31 degrees) and starts turning towards the west-northwest, passing 15 arcminutes north of the globular star cluster M55 on August 23 and starting to cross the rich Sagittarius Milky Way star fields within the next two to three days. If it continues to remain asteroidal it should begin to fade fairly rapidly by around that time, however since it does not pass through perihelion until September 8 (q = 1.340 AU) it is conceivable that it might start to exhibit weak cometary activity, in which case it could maintain its brightness and perhaps even brighten some.

Comet LINEAR C/2017 B3 (no. 664)

This distant comet remains a difficult object for me to observe, being just a few degrees above my southern horizon and remaining small and faint at 14th magnitude. It is located in western Phoenix at a declination of -46 degrees half a degree southwest of the star Epsilon Phoenicis and is traveling almost due westward at 10 arcminutes per day; it crosses into eastern Grus on September 18. The comet passed through perihelion over six months ago but is now near its closest approach to Earth (minimum distance 3.48 AU on August 20) and will be at opposition four weeks later; I don't expect much change in brightness for at least a few more weeks.

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

This comet underwent a new outburst shortly after the beginning of August, and after a few mornings of cloudy weather I was able to detect it as a small condensed object of 14th magnitude; I have not been able to observe it since then but I suspect the coma has started to expand and grow more diffuse. This does not seem to be an especially strong outburst and I am not sure how long it will remain visually detectable, but as is always the case with this comet new -- and potentially stronger -- outbursts can take place at any time. It is located in central Pisces three degrees east-southeast of the star 64 Piscium and, having just passed through its stationary point less than two weeks ago, is traveling very slowly towards the west.

Comet 260P/McNaught (no. 666)

This recent addition to my tally appeared near magnitude 13 1/2 when I first picked it up near the end of July, and unfortunately I have not been able to observe it since then; I suspect it has brightened a little, and since it is approaching both the sun and Earth it should continue brightening -- by at least a half-magnitude or more -- during the next few weeks. The comet is currently located in southwestern Aries two degrees north-northeast of the star Omicron Piscium and is traveling towards the northeast at close to 45 arcminutes per day; it passes half a degree west of the star Theta Arietis on August 30.

Comet ASASSN C/2018 N2 (no. 657)

Ever since it emerged into the morning sky a couple of months ago this distant comet has been steadily climbing higher, and appeared as a small and moderately condensed object of 13th magnitude when I observed it at the beginning of this month; unfortunately I have not been able to observe it since then but it has probably brightened a little, and meanwhile CCD images I've seen are starting to show a distinct dust tail which may soon be detectable visually. It is currently located in central Aries 1 1/2 degrees south of the star Mu Arietis and, having passed through its stationary point a week and a half ago, is now traveling towards the north-northwest at 15 arcminutes per day; it passes 15 arcminutes west of the star Nu Arietis on August 26 and crosses into southern Triangulum on September 15. The comet should continue brightening slowly and steadily over the coming months as it approaches the sun and Earth.

Comet Africano C/2018 W2 (no. 663)

This is currently the brightest comet I am following, being slightly brighter than 12th magnitude and exhibiting a moderately condensed coma 2 arcminutes in diameter when I observed it a couple of mornings ago. For the time being it remains in southwestern Camelopardalis, being presently located four degrees south of the open star cluster NGC 1502 and the southern tip of the line of stars known as "Kemble's Cascade" and traveling towards the west-southwest although turning gradually towards the south, currently at 15 arcminutes per day but increasing to over 40 arcminutes per day by month's end and to two degrees per day by mid-September. It crosses into northwestern Perseus on August 31, passes 20 arcminutes northwest of the star Gamma Persei on September 4, and then crosses into northeastern Andromeda four days later. The comet continues to approach the sun and Earth and should brighten fairly rapidly over the next few weeks, probably to somewhere around 10th or 11th magnitude by the end of August.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 T2 (no. 667)

My tally's most recent addition is located in eastern Taurus 20 arcminutes northwest of the star 106 Tauri and is traveling towards the east-northeast at a little under 15 arcminutes per day, passing just over 20 arcminutes north of the star 109 Tauri on August 31. The comet appeared as a small, condensed object of 14th magnitude during my first couple of observations, but since it is still almost nine months away from perihelion passage and is also approaching Earth, it should brighten distinctly over the coming months, although probably slowly at first -- perhaps by a half-magnitude or so by the end of August.

     

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY

Comet PANSTARRS C/2019 A9 [not observed]

Following its discovery in mid-January 2019 this comet remained a faint object up until the time the last observations before conjunction with the sun were obtained in late April. Following perihelion on July 26 (q = 1.426 AU) it began emerging into the southern hemisphere's morning sky, and has been reported as being detectable visually near magnitude 12 1/2. It is currently located in eastern Puppis two degrees southeast of the star Rho Puppis and is traveling towards the southeast at one degree per day; it crosses into western Pyxis on August 19, passes just 3 arcminutes east of the star Alpha Pyxidis on August 24, and crosses into northern Vela on August 30. The comet is closest to Earth (1.92 AU) on September 4 and may maintain something close to its present brightness until then, although it will likely start fading afterwards.

Comet Gibbs C/2018 A6 [not observed]

This distant comet passed through perihelion (q = 3.108 AU) a month ago and was in conjunction with the sun (77 degrees south of it) a little over a week later, and thus is now technically a morning-sky object although it has recently entered southern circumpolar skies (present declination -62 degrees). The most recent reports I've read from southern hemisphere observers indicate that it is still visually detectable at around 14th magnitude, but since it is now receding from the sun (although its distance from Earth stays relatively constant until about the end of August) it may not remain observable for too much longer. The comet is presently located in central Carina three degrees southeast of the star Epsilon Carinae (the easternmost star of the "False Cross"), and is traveling towards the south-southeast at approximately 20 arcminutes per day; it crosses into northeastern Volans on August 22 and passes 40 arcminutes west of the star Alpha Volantis six days later before crossing back into southeastern Carina on September 2 and passing just five arcminutes southwest of the star Beta Carinae (Miaplacidus) four days after that.

          

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