COMET RESOURCE CENTER
CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS
|Last updated: June 15, 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 N6 (no. 638)
I am probably finished with this comet for the time being, as it is now quite low in my northwestern sky after dusk. It passes through perihelion a little over a month from now, and is in conjunction with the sun (10 degrees north of it) a little over a week later, and it should emerge into my morning sky around mid-September. The comet appeared as a small and relatively condensed object of 13th magnitude when I last saw it a little over a week ago, and its appearance and brightness should be similar when I see it again. It is currently located in southern Lynx four degrees southwest of the star 31 Lyncis, and is traveling towards the south-southeast at 20 arcminutes per day.
Comet 364P/PANSTARRS P/2018 A2 (no. 643)
I am also very probably finished with this comet for the time being as well, as it is now quite low in my western sky after dusk, although observers in the southern hemisphere should still be able to follow it for some time. When I last observed it a few nights ago it had brightened a bit from my initial observations, appearing close to magnitude 13 1/2; with perihelion passage now just a little over a week away, and with its continuing to approach Earth it may well continue to brighten over the coming weeks. It is located in southern Cancer some two degrees south-southwest of the star Alpha Cancri (and a similar distance south-southeast of the star cluster M67), and is traveling just westward of due south at 50 arcminutes per day; this motion accelerates and turns more westward over coming weeks, with the comet's entering western Hydra (in the "head" of that constellation) on June 20 and passing just over half a degree east of the star cluster M48 on July 1. If all goes well I should be able to pick up this comet again by about mid-August, in the morning sky.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2015 O1 (no. 621)
When I next see this comet, it will have gone over the one-year mark in observing duration. It is currently located in eastern Ursa Major, three degrees south of Gamma Ursae Majoris ("Phecda"), the southeastern star of the "bowl" of the Big Dipper; it is traveling towards the southwest at slightly over 15 arcminutes per day, and passes 40 arcminutes east of the star Chi Ursae Majoris on July 1. The comet appeared as a small, condensed object of magnitude 13 1/2 when I last saw it a little over a week ago, and since it is receding from both the sun and Earth it has started to fade, and I doubt if I will be able to follow it for much longer.
Comet Weiland C/2018 K1 (no. 645)
As I indicated in this comet's tally write-up, I am probably already finished with it, since it is receding from both the sun and Earth, and even when I was observing it I could barely detect it. But in case I happen to get a clear night soon, it is presently located in southern Ophiuchus some six degrees west-southwest of the star Xi Ophiuchi, and is traveling rapidly towards the west-northwest, presently at 100 arcminutes per day, although this decreases to just over one degree per day by the beginning of July and to 50 arcminutes a day one week later. The comet crosses into northern Scorpius on June 20, then passes slightly less than one degree north of the star Beta Scorpii (in the "head" of that constellation) and crosses into eastern Libra four days after that.
Comet ATLAS C/2017 M4 (no. 644)
This recent addition to my tally is currently located in northeastern Hercules some six degrees east of the star Iota Herculis and is traveling towards the west-southwest at a little over 20 arcminutes per day; it is at opposition on June 20 and then passes two degrees south of the above star eight days later. The comet appeared as a small, condensed object of 14th magnitude during my initial observations, and I don't expect much change over the next few weeks.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2016 M1 (no. 629)
For the time being this remains the only relatively bright comet that I am presently following; when I saw it a few nights ago it appeared as a moderately condensed object slightly fainter than magnitude 9 1/2 -- not quite bright enough to see with binoculars, but close. With its being closest to Earth (1.29 AU) on June 25 (and at opposition the previous day) and with perihelion passage still a little less than two months away, it may still brighten a little over the coming few weeks, although I would suspect not by much. The comet is currently located in southern Sagittarius three degrees southeast of the star Epsilon Sagittarii ("Kaus Australis" -- the southwestern star of the "bottom" of the "teapot") and is traveling towards the southwest at one degree per day; it crosses into Corona Australis on June 17, goes south of declination -40 degrees four days later, passes a little under 1 1/2 degrees northwest of the bright globular star cluster NGC 6541 on June 25, and crosses into northeastern Ara four days after that. On July 7 its declination drops south of -50 degrees, and I will permanently lose it from my location.
Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (no. 642)
This eagerly-awaited comet is presently traveling through dense Milky Way star fields near the galactic equator in northern Cygnus and is accordingly a bit more difficult to observe than it otherwise might be. Currently it is just 20 arcminutes west of the star Nu Cygni, and is traveling towards the northeast at 40 arcminutes per day, passing just to the east of the "west coast" of the North America Nebula (NGC 7000) on June 21 and two degrees west of the star cluster M39 one week later. The comet had brightened some, to about magnitude 13 1/2, when I last saw it several nights ago, and it should continue to brighten steadily as it approaches the sun and Earth.
Comet 37P/Forbes (no. 639)
Somewhat surprisingly, this is actually the second-brightest of all the comets I am presently following. It is currently located in northeastern Aquarius and over the next day passes almost directly over the star Phi Aquarii; it is traveling towards the northeast at just under half a degree per day, passing almost directly over the star 96 Aquarii on June 20 and crossing into western Pisces six days later. The comet has appeared as a moderately diffuse object of 12th magnitude during my recent observations, and although it is now six weeks past perihelion passage it is still approaching Earth, and I don't expect much change in brightness for at least the next two to three weeks.
Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)
The fairly small outburst that this comet underwent in late April has by now completely dispersed; there have been no reports of any more recent outbursts, and I was unable to see the comet when I looked for it a few mornings ago. It is currently located in western Pisces three degrees south of the star Gamma Piscium (and just to the southwest of the "circlet" of that constellation); it is traveling very slowly towards the northeast as it reaches its stationary point on July 5 (when it will be located 1 1/2 degrees west of the star Kappa Piscium), after which it begins retrograde (westward) motion. As is always the case with this comet, new outbursts can take place at any time.
Comet P/Scheila P/(596) (no. 624)
I was finally able to pick up this object in my morning sky a few mornings ago; it appeared completely stellar at magnitude 14 1/2, precisely consistent with its ephemeris prediction. It is located in western Cetus five degrees southeast of the star Iota Ceti and is traveling slightly northward of due east at just under 15 arcminutes per day, passing half a degree north of the star 18 Ceti on June 28 and 20 arcminutes south of the bright planetary nebula NGC 246 two days later. Barring any unusual activity -- which I do not expect -- Scheila should brighten rather slowly over the coming weeks.
Comet Lemmon C/2018 EF9 (no. 641)
This comet was in conjunction with the sun early this month and technically is now a morning object, although since it is less than six degrees from the north celestial pole this is essentially a moot issue since it is accessible all night long. As I indicate in my recent update to its tally entry, when I last looked for this comet a little over a week ago I was unable to convince myself I was seeing it, suggesting that the round of activity -- possibly an outburst -- that led to its recent visibility has by now dissipated. I am thus likely done with this comet (barring any additional activity). For what it's worth, the comet is located in far northern Cepheus at a current declination of +84.4 degrees, and is traveling towards the west-northwest at a relatively slow 6 arcminutes per day.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY
Comet 66P/du Toit (no. 640)
Recent reports I've read from southern hemisphere observers indicate that this comet is presently around 11th magnitude (and quite diffuse in appearance), perhaps a slight decrease in brightness from when it was near perihelion last month. It is presently located in northern Sculptor three degrees west-southwest of the bright galaxy NGC 253; it is traveling towards the east-northeast at somewhat over half a degree per day (although this decreases over the coming weeks), crossing into southern Cetus on June 21, when it will be located just half a degree northwest of the above galaxy. It will likely fade slowly over the coming weeks; meanwhile, by the latter part of this month I should be able to access it again in my morning sky, although with the coming full moon that moment might get delayed until next month.
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