Welcome to my Southern Comets website.

Here you will find images, photos and finder charts of past, present and future comets, plus other observations of interest.

This page was last updated on 07-Oct-2017

NEW *** 2017 COMET OBSERVING PLANNER excel file for both northern and southern observers.

Listen in to Comet Watch on Astronomy FM http://astronomy.fm/

Alan Hale's  autobiography The Comet Man, is now available at http://www.earthriseinstitute.org/thecometman.html

David Sergeant's new book "Weird Comets and Asteroids" is now available for purchase at Springer or Amazon.

This book concentrates on some of the odd aspects of comets and asteroids.
Strange behavior of comets, such as outbursts and schisms, and how asteroids can temporally act as comets are discussed,
together with the possible threat of Centaurs-class objects like the Taurid complex.

Reccent years have seen the distinction between comets and asteroids become less prominent.
Comets in "asteroid" orbits and vice versa have become almost commonplace and a clearer view of the role of small bodies in the formation of the Solar System
and their effect on Earth has become apparent. Seargent covers this development in detail by including new data and information from space probes.

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

Current Brightness of Present/Future comets from 35S latitude on 2017 October 7

Click on individual comet for information and finder charts. **NIGHT MODE charts available*** See below for latest images.

96P Machholz see info below. Mag 11 to 8. Low Southwestern evening sky until Oct 18.
C/2017 O1 ASASSN
10th magnitude and steady. Low Northern morning sky.
Was expected to peak at magnitude 8 in October 2017 but appears fainter.
 
C/2015 V2 Johnson
11th magnitude and fading. South Western Evening sky
Peaked at magnitude 7.5 in June 2017.
A dynamically new object arrived at perihelion on June 12 at 1.63AU.
 
C/2015 ER61 PANSTARRS
11th magnitude and fading.  North Eastern morning sky.
OUTBURST on April 4 but has since faded. Peaked at magnitude 6 in April 2017.
A dynamically old object arriving at perihelion on May 9 at 1.04AU.
 
24P Schaumasse 12th magnitude and brightening. Low Northeastern morning sky.
71P Clark
12th magnitude and fading. Western evening sky.
Peaks at magnitude 10 in July 2017
 
217P LINEAR
12th magnitude and brightening. Eastern morning sky.
Peaks at magnitude 11 in August.
 
C/2016 R2 PANSTARRS
12th magnitude and brightening. Eastern morning sky.
May peak at magnitude 10 in January 2018
 
29P Schwassmann Wachmann
12th magnitude outbursts. Evening sky.
 
C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS
19th magnitude and brightening.
A large comet due to arrive in December 2022. Faint Naked eye prospect.
 
C/2017 E4 Lovejoy
Amateur discovery which brightened rapidly to magnitude 6.5 in early April
but has since disintegrated!
 
41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak
Peaked at magnitude 6 in April 2017.
 
2P Encke
Peaked at magnitude 6 in early March 20107
 
45P Honda-Mrkos-Padjusakova
Peaked at magnitude 6.5 between Dec 2016 to Feb 2017.
Very close passage to earth on 2016 February 11 at 0.084AU. 12.5 million kms
 
C/2016 U1 NEOWISE
Survived its perihelion passage on 2017 January 14 at 0.32AU but faded out rapidly.
 
252P LINEAR
Peaked at naked eye magnitude 4, 7 orders of magnitude brighter than expected!
Passed Earth at 13.9 lunar distances on 2016 March 21.

 
C/2013 X1 PANSTARRS
Peaked at magnitude 6.5 in mid June 2016, well situated for southerners
 
C/2013 US10 Catalina
Peaked at magnitude 6 between November 2015 to January 2016
 

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

 

96P Machholz
Arrives at perihelion on 2017 Oct 27 at 0.12AU. This comet will peak at
magnitude 2, but unfortunately too close to the Sun to observe!
Southerners can see it rapidly brighten on its way to perihelion from early
to mid October when the then 8th magnitude comet is lost in evening
twilight.
The first opportunity occurs after the October full moon.
On October 8, the magnitude 11 comet will be 4 degrees NE of globular
cluster Omega Centauri.
On October 10, the magnitude 10 comet will be 3 degrees NE of galaxy
Centaurus A.
On October 15, the comet has brightened to magnitude 9, but is now only 5
degrees above the southwestern evening horizon at 9pm daylight time.
After this you can follow the comet in SOHO LASCO C3 images as it enters the
field of view on October 25 at 18UT (4 o'clock position)
and departs at about 6UT on October 29 (2 o'clock position)
https://sohodata.nascom.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/data_query

New comet discovery C/2017 O1 ASASSN.
Closest to Sun on 2017 October 14 at 1.50AU
Closest to Earth on 2017 October 18 at 0.72AU
Maximum magnitude ?8 in October 2017
On July 19.32 UT, K. Stanek, Ohio State University, reported the discovery of a comet in the course of the "All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae" (ASASSN) program,
from images taken with the 14-cm "Cassius" survey telescope at Cerro Tololo in Chile.

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~assassin/index.shtml

The comet appeared magnitude 15.
Soon after this discovery was posted on the possible comet confirmation page PCCP, reports of a large coma were noted.
I made a visual observation on 2017 July 24.83 using 25x100mm binoculars, where the comet appeared at magnitude 10.5 with a very large diffuse coma 5' wide.
It is very unusual in this day and age to see a comet at discovery, so bright. The comet was located in Cetus, but much better situated for southern observers.
Mid winter weather and the closure of the Siding Spring survey may have contributed to the later discovery.
Another possibility is that the comet had undergone a recent outburst. If this is the case, magnitude predictions below are purely guesswork!

Night mode finder charts for C/2017 O1

August 2017 - brightening from possibly magnitude 10 to 9.

September 2017 - brightening from possibly magnitude 9 to 8.

The morning of October 2 will effectively be the last observing opportunity for southerners as moonlight interferes, and the comet heads too far north.

Below - C/2015 V2 Johnson. Taken on July 23, using I Telescope T13, 5 minute exposure.


 

C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS
Was discovered on May 21 at a whopping distance of 16 AU, a near record distance for a comet discovery, and nearly out to the orbit of Uranus.
Currently shining at magnitude 19 would imply a very large comet (absolutemagnitude of 1)
Unfortunately the perihelion date will occur in December 2022, when the comet is near conjunction, 1.8AU from the Sun.
It will be quite distant from the Earth and Sun and not likely to become brighter than magnitude 5.
The other bit of bad news is that the comet may be dynamically new (first approach to the Sun) thus experiencing abnormally high activity at the
moment.
Potentially this comet may not even become visible to the naked eye!
The positive news is that it will be a favourable southern hemisphere comet, situated deep in southern evening skies.

Below C/2015 V2 Johnson

 

Below: C/2015 ER61 PANSTARRS on 2017 April 28. Has faded since outburst in early April, now at magnitude 7.5 but sporting a 2 degree ion tail.

C/2015 ER61 PANSTARRS in outburst on April 4 - 2 orders of magnitude brighter.


Above: Pre-outburst, comet appeared magnitude 8.3 through 25x100mm binoculars.
Below: Post-outburst, comet appeared magnitude 6.2 through 8x40mm binoculars.

Terry Lovejoy discovers his 6th comet!
Now 6th magnitude as of April 5, sporting an unusual elongated coma with a ion tail. Potential for disintegration.

New comet C/2017 E4 Lovejoy was discovered on 2017 March 10.
Preliminary orbit has perihelion arrival on 2017 April 23 at 0.49AU from the Sun.
Comet Lovejoy has brightened rapidly from magnitude 12 on 2017 March 18  to to magnitude 9.0 on March 25.8UT
Compare photos below. The comet could reach 5th magnitude at perihelion, but is at risk of disintegrating.


below comet Lovejoy on March 18



Above: 2015 ER61 PANSTARRS and 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann on 2017 March 18 (fragment too close to resolve)


Above: New comet C/2017 E1 Borisov  discovered on 2017 March 1.
preliminary designation gb00099 on the Possible Comet Confirmation Page.
This confirmation image was taken on 2017 March 2.
Approximate magnitude 15. Discovered by Russian amateur astronomer G. Borisov.
Preliminary orbit has perihelion arrival on 2017 April 10 at 0.90AU from the Sun. It is expected to brighten to about 10th magnitude.

Below - Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE fade out. Fainter than magnitude 15 in this image, expected to have appeared magnitude 12.
Image on 2017 Feb 24 at 10:30UT. Celestron C11 + Canon 60Da camera, 5 minutes of total exposure.Below

Below: 41P TGK and 45P HMP on 2017 Feb 24.


Below: 45P Honda-Mrkos-Padjusakova on 2017 Feb 21 showing a broad dust tail with a sharp edge.

Below: 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak on 2017 Feb 17.
This comet has potential for major outbursts that could bring it within naked eye visibility, thus should be closely monitored.
Click on comet link for more information.

Below 45P Honda-Mrkos-Padjusakova on 2016 Dec 22. 10x30 sec exposures, Canon 60Da + 200mm lens.

BRIGHTER COMETS EXPECTED IN 2017 (UPDATED 2016 DEC 6)

2017 will be a pretty exciting year for the comet observer. Here's a wrap up of what's in store.

45P Honda-Mrkos-Padjusakova.
One of the brighter short period comets, 45P arrived at perihelion (0.53AU from the Sun) at the end of last year.
During January, it is too close to the Sun for observation.
During February, it emerges from solar conjunction in the morning sky, but will be better situated for those in the north.
It is due for an exceptionally close approach to the Earth on 2017 Feb 11, when it will be 0.08AU away and potentially as bright as 6th magnitude.
Initially a morning object, it will move rapidly into evening skies by late February, but fade rapidly.

2P Encke
Discovered by Mechain in 1786, this is one of the shortest period comets (period of 3.3 years) and the most observed ( 63rd apparition)
The comet is only visible to northerners pre-perihelion in the evening sky.
It arrives at Perihelion on 2017 March 10 at 0.33AU and is closest to Earth on March 12 at 0.65AU.
Peaking at 3rd magnitude, unfortunately it will be too close to the Sun for observation!
However, it will make an appearance for southerners in late March morning skies, fading from magnitude 6.

41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak
This is the most interesting comet of the year. Known for its repeat outbursting, comet 41P will be having an excellent apparition.
It passes 0.14AU from Earth in early April, prior to its perihelion passage on April 13th at 1.04AU.
It will be spending a long time near the Earth's vicinity, within 0.2AU between March 10 to May 9
The comet is expected to peak at 5th magnitude, when not at outburst!
In 1973, the comet had a mega-outburst of 10 orders of magnitude. Imagine this at closest approach!
Very sadly for southerners, the comet is too far north for viewing, between late March and late April. By then, it may have faded to magnitude 6 or 7.
The outbusts are usually of short duration but what will be certain is that there will be a lot of attention given to 41P this year.

96P Maccholz
Arrives at perihelion on 2017 Oct 27 at 0.12AU. This comet will peak at magnitude 2, but once again too close to the Sun!
Southerners can see it brighten on its way to perihelion from early to mid October when the then 8th magnitude comet is lost in evening twilight.

C/2015 ER61 PANSTARRS
Discovered as an asteroid but later shown to display cometary activity, this comet arrives at perihelion on 2017 May 9 when it will be 1.04AU from the
Sun. It is not very well placed from Earth's perspective, closest at 1.17AU on April 20 but is intrinsically bright.
This is a returning long period object, so has the potential to become brighter than expected, peaking at magnitude 6 or 7 during May
and well situated for southerners in the morning sky.

C/2015 V2 Johnson
Is a dynamically new comet entering the solar system. It will probably disappoint and fail to reach its expected peak of magnitude 5-6.
It is closest to the Earth at 0.81AU on June 5, prior to its perihelion arrival on June 12 at 1.63AU.
It will be well situated for viewing in evening skies during June, trekking southwards.
My tip is that it will peak at 7th magnitude, but let's hope for a better outcome.

 

THE DOUBLE COMET SHOW OF MARCH 2013
Was one of the highlights on the comet observing calendar. 2 comets C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS and C/2012 F6 Lemmon
were simultaneouslt visible to the unaided eye during the evenings around early March 2013

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS page updated March 9 (final)
Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon page updated March 16 9 (final)

GREAT COMETS
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

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