COMET RESOURCE CENTER
CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS
|Last updated: August 10, 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)
For the time being, this remains the brightest comet that I am presently following, although probably not for much longer. Now a month past perihelion and also receding from Earth, it has started to fade within the fairly recent past, although it was still close to 11th magnitude when I observed it a couple of nights ago. The comet is currently located in southeastern Virgo two degrees south of the star Upsilon Virginis and is traveling towards the southeast at just over half a degree per day; it crosses into northwestern Libra on August 12 and passes just five arcminutes northeast of the star Xi-2 Librae eight days later. I expect it to continue fading slowly over the coming weeks, however its increasing southerly declination and its decreasing elongation from the sun will start to make observations from my latitude somewhat problematical within the not-too-distant future, and thus I may not be following it for too much longer.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 K2 (no. 699)
This large and distant comet -- located at a present heliocentric distance of 5.6 AU and still over 16 months away from perihelion passage -- went through opposition two months ago, and has appeared as a small and relatively condensed object of 13th magnitude during my most recent observations. It is currently located in central Hercules two degrees west of the star Pi Herculis and is traveling at 12 arcminutes per day, presently towards the south-southwest but curving more directly southward as it approaches its stationary point (6 1/2 degrees south-southwest of its current location) on September 9. As the comet continues to approach both the sun and Earth it should brighten slowly over the coming months.
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (no. 704)
My tally's most recent addition appeared as a small and moderately condensed object of 13th magnitude when I first picked it up a few mornings ago. It is currently located in southeastern Pisces four degrees southeast of the star Omicron Piscium and is traveling towards the east-northeast at 40 arcminutes per day (increasing to 50 arcminutes per day by the beginning of September); it crosses into northern Cetus on August 12, passes 10 arcminutes south of the star Xi-1 Ceti three days later, then crosses into southern Aries on August 22. The comet is almost three months away from perihelion passage and should brighten steadily during the coming weeks, by at least a magnitude or more by the end of August.
Comet 4P/Faye (no. 703)
This relatively recent addition to my tally has, as expected, continued to brighten steadily as it approaches perihelion a month from now, and appeared near 12th magnitude with a small, moderately condensed, and possibly slightly fan-shaped coma when I observed it a few mornings ago. It is currently located in western Taurus 4 1/2 degrees south of the Pleiades star cluster (M45) and is traveling almost due eastward at 40 arcminutes per day; it crosses the northwestern extremities of the Hyades star cluster from August 17 through 24 (passing 13 arcminutes south of the star Epsilon Tauri on that last date) and then crosses the southern regions of the open star cluster NGC 1647 on August 30. I expect the comet to brighten further, by perhaps half a magnitude or so, by the time of perihelion passage.
Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)
After conjunction with the sun back in May, this comet has begun emerging into the morning sky during the past few weeks. I have not been able to make an attempt for it yet, but the reports I've read and images I've seen suggest that it is remaining quiet for the time being; as is always possible, outbursts, potentially to 12th or 13th magnitude, can take place at any time. The comet is currently located in southwestern Auriga four degrees southwest of the star Iota Aurigae and is traveling towards the east-northeast at seven arcminutes per day.
Comet 15P/Finlay (no. 702)
Having passed through perihelion four weeks ago, this comet has begun fading slightly, and appeared as a diffuse object of magnitude 11 1/2 when I observed it a few mornings ago. It is currently located in northeastern Taurus 4 1/2 degrees north of the star Zeta Tauri and a similar distance south-southeast of the star Beta Tauri (the two stars of the "horns" of Taurus) and is traveling almost due eastward at 50 arcminutes per day (decreasing to 40 arcminutes per day by early September); it crosses into southeastern Gemini on August 16 and passes two degrees north of the star cluster M35 three days later. Since it is now receding from both the sun and Earth it should continue fading, and will probably remain visually detectable for perhaps another month before becoming too faint to see. This comet underwent two outbursts, including one to 8th magnitude, during its previous return in 2014, but thus far has behaved normally this time around, and it would now seem quite unlikely, although perhaps not inconceivable, that there will be any such activity during the coming weeks.
Comet ATLAS C/2019 L3 (no. 692)
Following conjunction with the sun last May, this comet has begun emerging into the morning sky during the recent past, and I successfully picked it up -- somewhat low in the northeast -- a few mornings ago; it had distinctly brightened during the interim, and appeared as a relatively condensed object of magnitude 12 1/2. It is currently located in northeastern Auriga five degrees northeast of the star Beta Aurigae and is traveling towards the east-southeast at approximately 15 arcminutes per day, crossing into western Lynx (and passing 20 arcminutes north of the star 16 Lyncis) on September 1. The comet is still five months away from a distant perihelion passage and should brighten slowly over the coming weeks and months.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY
Comet 252P/LINEAR [not observed]
I have read recent reports and seen recent images from observers in the southern hemisphere that indicate this comet -- which passed through perihelion on July 11 at a heliocentric distance of 1.00 AU -- is presently around 11th magnitude. It is low in the western evening sky at a present elongation of 38 degrees and located in western Virgo two degrees north of the star Beta Virginis (and 2 1/2 degrees east of Venus); it is traveling towards the east-southeast at slightly over one degree per day and passes one degree north of the prominent binary star Gamma Virginis on August 23. Since the comet is now a month past perihelion and is also receding from Earth it will likely fade fairly rapidly during the next few weeks, and will not remain visually detectable for much longer.
Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke (no. 701)
At a present declination of -50 degrees this comet is, for all practical purposes, inaccessible from my latitude, but is easily accessible for observers in the southern hemisphere; recent reports I've read from observers there indicate that, despite its being 2 1/2 months past perihelion, it is still visually detectable near 12th magnitude. It is currently located in western Phoenix 1 1/2 degrees south of the star Tau Phoenicis and is traveling at slightly under 15 arcminutes per day; having passed through its stationary point a week ago, it is presently heading towards the southwest but curves more directly westward as it reaches its farthest south point (declination -52 degrees) on August 30 and then begins heading northward as it approaches opposition in mid-September. The comet will likely fade fairly rapidly during the next few weeks and it will probably soon fade beyond the range of visual detectability.
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