Welcome to my Southern Comets website.

Here you will find information, finder charts and images of Comets - past, present and future, plus other observations of interest.

This page was last updated on 30-Sep-2018

Information on the December 2018 to January 2019 Naked Eye Apparition of comet 46P Wirtanen

Members of the general public should read this important Guide to Observing Comets

Latest Southern Comet News: August-October 2018

2018 COMET OBSERVING PLANNER excel file for both northern and southern observers (for comets predicted to be brighter than magnitude 15).
alternatively a PDF version can be downloaded here

With 2017 passing by relatively quietly for comet activity, 2018 will be a very busy year for the comet observer.
At least 1 comet should reach naked eye visibility in December 2018, 46P Wirtanen,
and a host of other objects, 15 in total, may appear brighter than magnitude 12.
The list of comets are arranged in chronological order of peak brightness (Jan 18 to Dec 18).

Current Brightness of Present/Future comets from 35S latitude on 2018 September 30
Finder charts below for the brighter comets

21P Giacobini-Zinner
8th magnitude and fading. Eastern morning sky.
Peaked at magnitude 7.0 in September 2018.
46P Wirtanen
11th magnitude and brightening. Eastern evening sky
May reach naked eye magnitude 3.5 in mid December 2018!
10th magnitude and fading. South-Western evening sky.
Peaked at magnitude 8.0 in June 2018.
38P Stephan-Oterma
11th magnitude and brightening. North-Eastern morning sky
May reach magnitude 9.0 in November 2018
64P Swift-Gehrels
12th magnitude and brightening (outburst on August 14). Eastern midnight sky
May reach magnitude 11 in November 2018
12th magnitude and steady. Northern hemisphere only. Peaked at magnitude 10 in January 2018.
Frequent volatile outbursts of small amplitude. Comet appears "Blue" due to high CO+ content.
29P Schwassmann-Wachmann 12th magnitude outbursts. Eastern morning sky.
12th magnitude and steady. Low north-eastern morning sky.
48P Johnson 12th magnitude and fading. Eastern evening sky
C/2017 T3 Atlas
13th magnitude and fading. Very low south-western evening sky
13th magnitude and fading. Western evening sky.
New Comet peaked at magnitude 8 in late July 2018 (read discovery news below).

Outbursts occurred on July 1 and July 14 (where it reached magnitude 7 at best).
Was not observable from the southern hemisphere.
Observable in STEREO A images at magnitude 9 during August 1 to 14
but probably disintegrated at perihelion
C/2017 T1 Heinze
Disintegrated at perihelion. 
Was closest to Earth on Jan 4 at 0.22AU.
C/2015 V2 Johnson
Peaked at magnitude 7.5 in June 2017.
Was d
iscovered on 2017 May 21 at a whopping distance of 16 AU,
nearly a record for a comet discovery.
Now shining at magnitude 17, implies a very large comet (absolute magnitude of 1)
Perihelion at 1.8AU occurs in December 2022, unfortunately when the comet is near conjunction.
It will be distant from the Earth and Sun, thus not likely to become brighter than magnitude 5.
The comet may be dynamically new (first approach to the Sun) and may be experiencing abnormally high activity currently. This comet may fizzle and fail to reach naked eye visibility.
However it will be a favourable southern comet, situated deep in southern evening skies in 2022.

Finder Charts:

46P Wirtanen finder charts for October (magnitude 11 to 9) November (magnitude 8 to 6 ) December (magnitude 6 to 3).

21P Giacobini-Zinner finder charts for October 2018 (magnitude 8 to 9) and November (9 to 11)

38P Stephan-Oterma finder charts for October (magnitude 10.5 to 9.5) November (magnitude 9.5-9.0) December (magnitude 9.0-10.0)

C/2016 M1 PANSTARRS charts for Aug-Oct 2018 (magnitude 9 to 11)

Discovery News:
New comet C/2018 N1 NEOWISE was discovered by the infrared NEOWISE spacecraft on 2018 July 2, estimated at about magnitude 16 with 1.5' coma
I visually observed the comet on 2018 July 9.82 UT m1= 11.2:, Dia=5, DC=2...25x100mm B [Michael Mattiazzo, Swan Hill, Vic, Australia]
[First visual observation. Very diffuse coma that enhances slightly using a Swan band filter]
The comet brightened rapidly and reached magnitude 8 in late July as it sped past Earth at 0.30AU on July 27.
It is in a retrograde orbit, moving in a direction opposite the planets.
Perihelion occurred a few days later on August 1, at 1.30AU, hence an exceptionally favourable apparition.
Southern hemisphere observers were favoured as the comet was well situated in evening skies, rapidly traversing through the constellations of
Cetus, Aquarius, Sculptor, Pisces Austrinus, Microscopium, Sagittarius, Scorpius/Ophiuchus and Libra during July and August.

Latest Images:

46P Wirtanen on 2018 September 20.

21p Giacobini-Zinner on 2018 September 20. Dust tail is > 1 degree long.

Wide field image of 21p Giacobini-Zinner on 2018 September 13 with star clusters M35 at top right and M37 at lower left.

21p Giacobini-Zinner on 2018 September 13 with star clusters M35 and NGC 2158 at right


Below C/2018 N1 NEOWISE (lower left) on 2018 August 6. Rho Oph cloud complex at centre. Antares at lower right. Globular cluster M4 at upper right.
Comet estimated at magnitude 9.2 through 25x100mm binoculars

New Comet NEOWISE at top with planetary nebula NGC 246 in Cetus below on 2018 July 9.

C/2017 S3 PANSTARRS in outburst. July 2 image.
Outbursts occurred on July 1 and July 14 (where it reached magnitude 7 at best). Was not observable from the southern hemisphere.
Observable in STEREO A images at magnitude 9 during August 1 to 14 but probably disintegrated at perihelion

Total Solar Eclipse photos from Casper Wyoming on 2017 August 21.


Was one of the highlights on the comet observing calendar.
2 comets C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS and C/2012 F6 Lemmon
were simultaneously visible to the unaided eye during the evenings of early March 2013

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS page
Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon page

What a privilege it is to observe a great comet. My tally is 4 since I began observing comets in 1986.
Click on links for additional photos and information.

C/1996 B2 Hyakutake (Great comet of 1996)
C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp (Great comet of 1997)
C/2006 P1 McNaught
(Great comet of 2007)
C/2011 W3 Lovejoy (Great comet of 2011)


Also visit my alternate website at http://www.yp-connect.net/~mmatti/
which consists of additional photos and observations of comets personally witnessed since 1996.

A history of my comet observations since 1986 can be downloaded here

Further comet information can be found at:
Comet Watch
Facebook group

Skyhound. A website for comet charts and information: http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/

Weekly comet information by Seiichi Yoshida http://www.aerith.net/comet/weekly/current.html
In my opinion the best website for comet information and light curve predictions.

Send comments to Michael Mattiazzo : mmatti at westnet dot com dot au