COMET RESOURCE CENTER
CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS
|Last updated: October 15, 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 Africano C/2018 W2 (no. 663)
When this comet was closest to Earth late last month it was near magnitude 9 1/2 and I could faintly detect it with 10x50 binoculars. Now that it is receding from both the sun and Earth it is fading, being around magnitude 10 1/2 right now and probably somewhere between magnitudes 11 1/2 and 12 by the end of this month. It is currently located in northern Piscis Austrinus six degrees west of the star Epsilon Piscis Austrini (and half a degree north of the star Lambda Piscis Austrini) and is traveling towards the south-southwest, presently at 80 arcminutes per day but decreasing to 20 arcminutes per day by early November; it passes 20 arcminutes west of Lambda Piscis Austrini on October 16 and crosses into northwestern Grus on October 28 before passing 1 1/2 degrees west of the star Gamma Gruis two days later.
Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)
This distant comet was at opposition on October 4. It underwent a somewhat large outburst in early August which has since subsided, and although there have been reports of some "mini-outbursts" since then I have been unable to make a convincing visual observation during my most recent attempts. As is always possible with this comet, of course, new and strong outbursts can take place at any time. It is currently located in central Pisces 20 arcminutes east-southeast of the star 53 Piscium and is traveling towards the west-southwest at seven arcminutes per day; it passes just over ten arcminutes south of the above star on October 18.
Comet ASASSN C/2018 N2 (no. 657)
This relatively distant comet has appeared as a moderately condensed object near magnitude 11 1/2 during my recent observations, and I have faintly been able to detect a couple of arcminutes of the southward-pointing tail that is relatively prominent on CCD images. Having just passed through opposition, and being closest to Earth (2.12 AU) on October 19 and at perihelion early next month, it is probably close to its peak brightness, although it should maintain something close to its present brightness for at least a few more weeks. The comet is currently located in southern Andromeda 2 1/2 degrees east of the star Beta Andromedae and is traveling at half a degree per day, presently towards the west-northwest but gradually curving more directly westward; it passes one degree north of that star on October 21 and 2 1/2 degrees south of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) on November 1.
Comet 260P/McNaught (no. 666)
This comet reached a peak brightness near magnitude 12 1/2 in late September, but since it is now over five weeks past perihelion passage and was closest to Earth (0.56 AU) a week and a half ago it is now starting to fade, although it should remain visually detectable for at least another month. In overall appearance it has remained small and condensed, and I have faintly been able to detect a few arcminutes of the tail that is quite prominent on CCD images. The comet is currently located in northern Perseus 3 1/2 degrees south-southeast of the star Theta Persei and, having just passed through its stationary point a week ago, is currently traveling towards the northwest at 20 arcminutes per day, although it slows down and curves more westwardly over the next few weeks. It passes 25 arcminutes southwest of the above star on October 28 and crosses into northeastern Andromeda three days later; meanwhile, it is at opposition on October 30 and reaches its farthest north point (declination +50.2 degrees) on November 11.
Comet P/Scheila P/(596) (no. 624)
This one-time "active asteroid" has appeared as a very faint stellar object of 15th magnitude during my recent observations, although since it is approaching opposition near the end of November it should brighten some over the coming weeks, to close to 14th magnitude by the end of this month. It is currently located in central Taurus one degree northeast of the star 97 Tauri and, having just passed through its stationary point, is now traveling slowly towards the west-northwest; it passes just over 40 arcminutes north of the open star cluster NGC 1647 during the first few days of November. Scheila will pass through aphelion (heliocentric distance 3.407 AU) on November 21, a few days before it is at opposition.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 T2 (no. 667)
My tally's most recent addition has brightened steadily but slowly ever since I first picked it up 2 1/2 months ago, appearing as a small condensed object just fainter than magnitude 12 1/2 during my most recent observations. It is currently at its stationary point, being located in southern Auriga 3 1/2 degrees northeast of the star Beta Tauri; it now begins traveling towards the north-northwest, presently at 15 arcminutes per day and increasing to 20 arcminutes per day by the end of this month, and passes 15 arcminutes east of the open star cluster M36 on October 28. The comet should continue brightening, perhaps a bit more rapidly as it continues approaching the sun and Earth, and may be close to 11th magnitude in early November.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY
NONE AT THE MOMENT
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