COMET RESOURCE CENTER
CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS
|Last updated: September 18, 2020
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 NEOWISE C/2020 F3 (no. 676)
I am quite likely finished with this comet that put on such an excellent show two months ago. It is now quite low in my southwestern sky after dusk, being south of the sun and at an elongation of 47 degrees, and it also continues to fade, appearing as a diffuse object of 11th magnitude when I observed it last night; it will continue fading and sinking lower in my sky during the coming weeks. The comet is currently located in northwestern Libra three degrees west-southwest of the star Delta Librae and is traveling towards the southeast at 25 arcminutes per day (decreasing to 20 arcminutes per day by early October).
Comet Lemmon C/2019 U6 (no. 674)
I am probably about finished with this comet as well. Now three months past perihelion, it appeared as a vague and diffuse object of 12th magnitude when I observed it a couple of nights ago, and it will only continue fading during the coming weeks. It is currently located in northern Serpens Caput a little over a degree west of the star Pi Serpentis and is traveling almost directly eastward at slightly half a degree per day; it passes ten arcminutes north of that star on September 21 and crosses into western Hercules two days later.
Comet 88P/Howell (no. 678)
Almost five months after I first picked it up, this comet is now just a little over a week away from perihelion passage. It has continued to brighten slowly, appearing as a large diffuse object near magnitude 9 1/2 when I last observed it a couple of nights ago; in less-than-ideal sky conditions I could not quite detect it in 10x50 binoculars. The comet is in western Scorpius and is currently traveling through the "head" of that constellation, being presently located 1 1/2 degrees south of the star Delta Scorpii (the middle star of the "head"); it is traveling towards the east-southeast at 50 arcminutes per day (gradually turning more and more directly eastward), passing one degree north of the bright star Antares on September 26 (the date of perihelion) and crossing into southern Ophiuchus on October 2 and passing ten arcminutes south of the globular star cluster M19 three days later and just five arcminutes south of the globular star cluster NGC 6293 two days after that. I expect it to remain close to its present brightness for a few more weeks, and it may conceivably brighten a bit further during that time.
Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)
This distant comet underwent a fairly large outburst in late July and, as expected, the coma has expanded and diffused out since then; somewhat to my surprise I was still able to detect this a couple of nights ago as an extremely vague and diffuse patch of light near 13th magnitude. I suspect I won't be able to see this for much longer, but as is always possible with this comet a new outburst can take place at any time. It is currently located in northern Aries 20 arcminutes northeast of the star 41 Arietis and, having passed through its stationary point two weeks ago, is now traveling very slowly almost due westward; it passes 15 arcminutes directly north of that star on September 26.
Comet ATLAS C/2020 M3 (no. 685)
I was finally able to collect a second observation of this comet a few mornings ago and, more or less as I expected based on reports from southern hemisphere observers (as well as several recent images I have seen), it appeared as a relatively large and diffuse object of 11th magnitude. It is currently located in western Eridanus one degree north-northeast of the star g Eridani and is traveling at 35 arcminutes per day, presently towards the east-northeast but gradually turning more and more northward; it passes 15 arcminutes south of the star i Eridani on September 20, one degree north of the star 41 Eridani on September 29, and half a degree north of the star 52 Eridani on October 7. The comet is now six weeks away from perihelion passage and should brighten steadily during the coming weeks, probably by at least one magnitude or more by the end of September.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY
Comet NEOWISE C/2020 P1 [not observed]
I am not aware of any visual observations of this comet -- which I discuss on the "Incoming Comets" page -- by observers in the southern hemisphere, but I have seen recent images which suggest that it is presently close to 14th magnitude. It is currently located in central Centaurus four degrees east-southeast of the star Delta Centauri and is traveling due northward, presently at 40 arcminutes per day but increasing to over one degree per day by the end of September. The comet is in conjunction with the sun (40 degrees south of it) at the very end of this month and thereafter technically moves into the morning sky, however the elongation rapidly decreases, to below 30 degrees on October 5 and to below 20 degrees five days later before passing 11 degrees due west of the sun in mid-October. Its future brightness behavior, and even its survival, is difficult to predict, but if it does survive its perihelion passage on October 20 it should become visible in the northern hemisphere's morning sky -- potentially as a somewhat bright object -- by the end of that month.
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