COMET RESOURCE CENTER

CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS

Last updated: April 27, 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 P/Scheila P/(596) (no. 669) 

After going through opposition over 2 1/2 months ago and peaking near magnitude 13 1/2, this one-time "active asteroid" has faded somewhat, although it has appeared only a few tenths of a magnitude fainter -- and, as expected, completely stellar -- during my most recent observations. It is currently located in northeastern Cancer four degrees west-southwest of the star Alpha Lyncis and, having passed through its stationary point at the end of last month, is now traveling towards the east-southeast at slightly over ten arcminutes per day; it crosses into northwestern Leo on May 18. As Scheila continues to travel past opposition it should keep fading, and appear near magnitude 14 1/2 throughout most of next month.

Comet Palomar C/2020 T2 (no. 697)

This comet has continued to brighten as it approaches perihelion -- still 2 1/2 months away -- and appeared as a relatively condensed object of 12th magnitude when I last saw it a week ago. It has just gone through opposition but is still approaching Earth (minimum distance 1.41 AU on May 12) and thus may brighten a bit more over the coming few weeks. At present the comet is located in southeastern Canes Venatici four degrees south-southeast of the star 25 Canum Venaticorum and is traveling towards the southwest at 12 arcminutes per day, although during the coming weeks it accelerates and curves more directly southward as it approaches its stationary point just before the end of May; in the meantime it passes one degree west of the globular star cluster M3 on May 17 and crosses into western Bootes one day later.

Comet ATLAS C/2020 R4 (no. 691)

This is the brightest comet in my current nighttime sky. Although it passed through perihelion almost two months ago, it has been approaching Earth ever since then, and was closest -- at a minimum distance of 0.46 AU -- on April 23, and meanwhile it is now passing through opposition. It didn't brighten as much as I expected, and was still only about 10th magnitude -- albeit with a somewhat condensed coma close to five arcminutes in diameter -- when I last saw it a week ago; it may still be close to that brightness when I am able to observe it again in a few days once the moon clears from the evening sky, but I expect it to start fading fairly rapidly thereafter. The comet is presently located in central Bootes 3 1/2 degrees northeast of the star Rho Bootis and is traveling almost due westward at a rapid four degrees per day; over the coming weeks it slows down -- to one degree per day by mid-May, and to 20 arcminutes per day by the end of that month -- and curves southward, crossing into Canes Venatici on April 30, into northern Coma Berenices on May 6, and then into Leo six days after that.

Comet SONEAR C/2020 J1 (no. 700)

My tally's newest addition has brightened slightly since I first picked it up early this month, appearing as a small and moderately condensed object of magnitude 13 1/2 when I last saw it a week ago. It remains fairly low in my southern sky, being presently located in southwestern Scorpius 2 1/2 degrees northeast of the star Theta Lupi; it is traveling towards the west-northwest (and gradually curving more northward) at just under 40 arcminutes per day, and crosses into northeastern Lupus on May 1 and then into southern Libra on May 15. The comet passed through perihelion just over a week ago but is still approaching Earth, being closest (2.37 AU on May 17) around the same time it is at opposition; it is thus probably near its maximum brightness, although it should remain close to this for a few more weeks.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 K2 (no. 699)

This large and distant comet -- located at a present heliocentric distance of 6.5 AU and still almost 20 months away from perihelion passage -- has brightened slightly since I first picked it up last month but still appears as a small and relatively condensed object of 14th magnitude. It is presently located in northwestern Lyra four degrees northwest of the bright star Vega and, having passed through its stationary point at the end of last month, is now traveling towards the northwest at a slow six arcminutes per day and crosses into northeastern Hercules on May 13; it gradually curves more directly westward during the coming weeks as it approaches opposition in mid-June. The comet should continue its slow and steady brightening over the coming weeks and months.

Comet 246P/NEAT (no. 675)

I have recently picked up this comet in the morning sky following its conjunction with the sun late last year, and I have now gone over a full year since my initial observation in April 2020. For the time being the comet remains somewhat low in my southeastern sky before dawn, and also remains a small and faint object slightly fainter than 14th magnitude; since it is approaching Earth (minimum distance 1.94 AU on July 1) and opposition it may brighten slightly over the coming few weeks. The comet is presently located in eastern Sagittarius two degrees east-southeast of the star Psi Sagittarii and is traveling at slightly under 10 arcminutes per day, currently towards the east-southeast but curving more directly southward as it approches its stationary point (three degrees southeast of its present location) on May 22, after which it begins retrograde (westward) motion, still trending towards the south.

     

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY

Comet 10P/Tempel 2 [not observed]

I have read various recent reports from observers in the southern hemisphere that indicate this comet is somewhat bright, apparently in the vicinity of 11th magnitude. It is quite low in the eastern sky before and during dusk, being at a present elongation of 36 degrees and located in southern Pisces 2 1/2 degrees northeast of the star 33 Piscium; it is traveling towards the east-northeast at approximately 45 arcminutes per day and crosses into northern Cetus on May 2. The comet passed through perihelion (q = 1.412 AU) on March 24 while on the far side of the sun from Earth, and is gradually drawing closer to Earth, with a minimum distance of 1.61 AU taking place in early November. Historically, this comet tends to remain somewhat bright for quite some time after perihelion passage, and thus it should remain visually detectable for southern hemisphere observers for at least a few more weeks; however it also remains relatively inaccessible from the northern hemisphere for another few months and it is unlikely that I will be able to observe it during its present return.

        

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