COMET RESOURCE CENTER

CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS

Last updated: January 20, 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 ASASSN C/2018 N2 (no. 657)

Now over two months past perihelion and three months past its closest approach to Earth, this distant comet has been fading during the recent past, appearing as a small and relatively condensed object of 13th magnitude when I most recently observed it. It is currently located in western Andromeda one degree north-northwest of the star 15 Andromedae and is traveling towards the northeast at slightly under ten arcminutes per day; it passes half a degree east of the star Iota Andromedae on February 8 and one degree east of the star Kappa Andromedae seven days later. The comet should continue fading slowly during the coming weeks and I will probably not be following it for too much longer.

Comet ATLAS C/2019 Y1 (no. 671)

This recent addition to my tally is in my southwestern sky after dusk, being presently located in eastern Aquarius less than half a degree northeast of the star Omega-1 Aquarii; it is traveling just eastward of due north at 45 arcminutes per day and crosses into southwestern Pisces on February 4 and then into southeastern Pegasus two weeks later. The comet appeared as a vague, diffuse object of magnitude 12 1/2 when I first observed it a few nights ago and, ostensibly, should brighten as it approaches the sun and Earth, however as I point out in its tally entry any future brightness predictions must be regarded as at least somewhat uncertain.

Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)

This comet has remained relatively quiet for the past several weeks, but as is always possible new outbursts can take place at any time. It is currently located in central Pisces two degrees south of the star 53 Piscium (and six degrees southeast of the star Gamma Pegasi, the southeastern corner of the "Great Square" of Pegasus) and is traveling somewhat northward of due east at seven arcminutes per day.

Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 T2 (no. 667)

For the time being, this remains the brightest and best comet that I am currently following; still 3 1/2 months away from perihelion passage although now three weeks past its closest approach to Earth (1.52 AU) it has appeared close to 10th magnitude, with a bright condensed coma and a distinct tail several arcminutes long, for about the past month. It is traveling through some rich Milky Way star fields, being currently located in northwestern Perseus three degrees northwest of the star Eta Persei and 1 1/2 degrees east of the "Double Cluster" (NGC 869 and 884); it is heading towards the west-northwest, presently at 15 arcminutes per day although slowing down as it approaches its stationary point on February 19, and in the meantime it passes half a degree north of the Double Cluster during the last four days of January and crosses into southeastern Cassiopeia on February 14. The comet should brighten at least somewhat over the coming weeks as it continues to approach perihelion.

Comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff (no. 668)

I am probably about finished with this comet; even though I could still faintly detect it at 14th magnitude a couple of nights ago, it is now a week past perihelion passage and is also receding from Earth and thus it will likely fade beyond my range within the relatively near future. It is currently located in eastern Aries half a degree south of the star 63 Arietis and is traveling towards the east-southeast at half a degree per day; it crosses into western Taurus on January 24.

Comet P/Scheila P/(596) (no. 669)

This one-time "active asteroid" is now two months past opposition (and aphelion) and, as expected, has faded somewhat since then, appearing as a stellar object of magnitude 14 1/2 when I observed it a couple of nights ago. It is currently located in northwestern Taurus 2 1/2 degrees south-southeast of the Pleiades star cluster (M45) and is traveling very slowly as it approaches its stationary point on January 25 and thereafter resumes direct (eastward) motion. Scheila should continue fading during the coming weeks and I will probably not be following it much longer during the current viewing season.

Comet P/Griseldis P/(493) (no. 651)

Another one-time "active asteroid" on my tally will be at opposition at the very beginning of February, and I successfully picked it up again a couple of nights ago as a very faint stellar object of 15th magnitude. At this time it is located in southeastern Lynx four degrees northwest of the star Alpha Lyncis and is traveling almost due westward at just under 15 arcminutes per day. Griseldis probably won't get any brighter than it is now but should maintain its present brightness for another couple of weeks before beginning to fade, and I will probably not be following it for very long.

Comet Iwamoto C/2020 A2 (no. 672)

My tally's newest entry is, for the time being, my only morning-sky comet. It is currently located in southern Hercules 1 1/2 degrees south-southeast of the star 93 Herculis and is traveling slightly eastward of due north, presently at one degree per day but increasing to two degrees per day by mid-February; it crosses into western Lyra on February 2, passes half a degree west of the bright star Vega five days later, and then crosses into eastern Draco one week after that. The comet appeared as a vague, diffuse object of 12th magnitude when I observed it a few mornings ago, and although past perihelion it is still approaching Earth (minimum distance 0.92 AU on February 21) and thus may brighten somewhat -- perhaps by a half-magnitude or so -- over the next two to three weeks.

     

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY

Comet PANSTARRS C/2018 F4 [not observed]

I have not read any recent reports from observers in the southern hemisphere concerning this distant comet, but unless something drastic has happened it should still be somewhere in the vicinity of 14th magnitude; it passed through perihelion (heliocentric distance 3.440 AU) on December 4 and was closest to Earth (3.77 AU) shortly before the end of that month. It is currently deep in southern circumpolar skies at a declination of -74.5 degrees, being located in western Hydrus three degrees north-northwest of the star Beta Hydri and a similar distance southwest of the Small Magellanic Cloud; it is traveling towards the north-northeast at half a degree per day, crossing into southeastern Tucana on January 21 and traveling through the southeastern extremities of the globular star cluster NGC 104 ("47 Tucanae") five days later. Ostensibly, the comet should remain somewhat close to its present brightness for perhaps a few more weeks.

          

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