COMET RESOURCE CENTER
CURRENTLY OBSERVABLE COMETS
|Last updated: December 7, 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 ASASSN C/2018 N2 (no. 657)
I have now been following this distant comet for over one year. It has appeared as a small and relatively condensed object of 12th magnitude -- with a faint tail a few arcminutes long -- during my recent observations, but since it passed through perihelion almost a month ago and was closest to Earth three weeks before that, it should start to fade slowly over the coming weeks. The comet is currently located in western Andromeda two degrees east of the star 14 Andromedae and is traveling almost due westward, presently at ten arcminutes per day but slowing down; it passes 15 arcminutes north of that star on December 25 and then begins curving northward, reaching its stationary point (45 arcminutes northwest of that star) on January 5 after which it begins traveling slowly towards the northeast.
Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (no. 498)
After undergoing a small outburst in October, this comet has been relatively quiet since then, although as is always possible new -- and stronger -- outbursts can take place at any time. It is currently located in central Pisces 40 arcminutes southeast of the star 42 Piscium (and 3 1/2 degrees southeast of the star Gamma Pegasi, the southeastern corner of the "Great Square" of Pegasus) and, having just gone through its stationary point two days ago, is now traveling very slowly eastward.
Comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff (no. 668)
This recent addition to my tally appeared as a small and very faint object of 14th magnitude during my initial observations. It is currently located in northeastern Triangulum 1 1/2 degrees east of the star Beta Trianguli and a similar distance north of the star Gamma Trianguli; it is traveling towards the south-southeast at slightly under half a degree per day, passing 20 arcminutes east of the latter star on December 11 and crossing into northern Aries on December 23. The comet was closest to Earth (0.72 AU) three days ago but is still six weeks away from perihelion passage, and thus should be marginally brighter over the next few weeks.
Comet P/Scheila P/(596) (no. 669)
This one-time "active asteroid" went through aphelion 2 1/2 weeks ago (at a heliocentric distance of 3.407 AU) and I successfully observed it on its new "return" a couple of nights later as a stellar object just brighter than 14th magnitude. It was at opposition just before the end of November and thus should now start to fade slowly, to slightly fainter than 14th magnitude by the end of December. Scheila is currently located in central Taurus 20 arcminutes west of the star Omega Tauri (and 4 1/2 degrees northwest of the center of the Hyades star cluster) and is traveling almost due westward at slightly over ten arcminutes per day; it gradually slows down as it approaches its stationary point in late January.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2017 T2 (no. 667)
Even though it is still almost five months away from perihelion passage, this is the brightest and best comet that I am currently following; it is presently around 11th magnitude, with a bright condensed coma and a distinct tail several arcminutes long towards the south-southwest. It is currently located in northeastern Perseus four degrees east of the star Mu Persei and is traveling towards the northwest at slightly over half a degree per day; it passes 15 arcminutes northeast of the open star cluster NGC 1528 on December 15 and crosses into southwestern Camelopardalis five days later. The comet was at opposition three days ago and is closest to Earth (1.52 AU) just before the end of this year, and should continue to brighten steadily, by a least a half-magnitude or more over the course of the next month.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ONLY
Comet Africano C/2018 W2 (no. 663)
Due to poor weather and to its location deep in my southern sky, I was unable to attempt this comet during the previous month, but I read reports from observers in the southern hemisphere that indicated it was around 13th magnitude. Since it continues to recede from both the earth and the sun it should continue fading, and how much longer it might remain visually detectable remains to be seen. It is currently located in western Grus five degrees west-northwest of the star Alpha Gruis and is traveling towards the east-southeast at approximately ten arcminutes per day; it passes half a degree north of that star on January 7 but will probably be too faint for visual observations by that time.
Comet PANSTARRS C/2018 F4 [not observed]
I have read several recent reports that indicate that this distant comet is presently around magnitude 13.5. It is located in far southern circumpolar skies, presently in northern Octans at a declination of -84 degrees half a degree north of the star Omega Octantis and traveling towards the southeast at half a degree per day, reaching a maximum southerly declination of -86.3 degrees on December 18 (after which it travels towards the northeast); on that date it passes 80 arcminutes north of the star Chi Octantis and then passes 50 arcminutes southeast of the star Beta Octantis on January 3 and just five arcminutes west of the star Theta Octantis (while crossing into southwestern Hydrus) on January 15. The comet is in conjunction with the sun (63 degrees south of it) on December 16 and technically becomes an evening object thereafter. It just passed through perihelion (heliocentric distance 3.440 AU) on December 4 and will be closest to Earth (3.77 AU) on December 26; thus, ostensibly, it should remain close to its present brightness for at least several more weeks.
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