British Astronomical Association

Comet Section

Director: Nick James

Visual observations page

(Co-ordinator Jonathan Shanklin)

Latest Discoveries

Sep 26  Sergey Shurpakov reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Sep 26  Worachate Boonplod reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C2 images
Sep 26  Sergey Shurpakov reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Sep 27  Discovery of 2016 SV (P/PanSTARRS) reported
Sep 28  Bo Zhou reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Sep 29  Discovery of 2016 S1 (PanSTARRS) reported
Sep 30  Discovery of 2016 R4 (P/Gibbs) reported
Oct 04  Szymon Liwo reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Oct 04  Trygve Prestgard reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Oct 06  Trygve Prestgard reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C2 images
Oct 11  Discovery of 2016 T1 (Matheny) reported
Oct 13  Discovery of 2016 T2 (Matheny) reported
Oct 14  Bo Zhou reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C2 images
Oct 14  Sergey Shurpakov reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C2 images
Oct 15  Worachate Boonplod reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Oct 15  Death of Klim Churyumov reported
Oct 18  Worachate Boonplod reports two Kreutz group comets in real time C2 images
Oct 18  Update

If there have been no recent updates try The German comet group page or Seiichi Yoshida's page for information or the Liga Iberoamericana de Astronomia for observations.

Elsewhere on these pages: Highlights / Newly discovered comets / Periodic comets / Contributing observations / Comet Ephemerides / Upcoming Comets / Observing Comets / Links / Meetings / Publications / Comments and Contacts / Old 2016 News / Comet discovery procedure / Weather information / The Comet's Tale / BAA Comet Section image archive / Project Alcock / More information / Legacy page

Current comet magnitudes (October 12) and observable region (October 2)

Comet	                  Magnitude   Trend    Observable     When visible        Last visual observation
144P/Kushida                  10.5    fade     60 N to 20 S   early morning       2016 October
43P/Wolf-Harrington           10.5    fade     55 N to 30 S   early morning       2016 October
237P/LINEAR                   11      steady   20 N to 50 S   early evening       2016 October
81P/Wild                      11.5    fade     Poor elongation                    2016 July
Johnson (2015 V2)             12      bright   80 N to 35 N   morning             2016 October
PanSTARRS (2013 X1)           12      fade     Poor elongation                    2016 August
9P/Tempel                     12.5    fade     15 N to 65 S   evening             2016 August
PanSTARRS (2014 S2)           12.5    fade     Conjunction                        2016 July
Spacewatch (2011 KP36)        12.5    steady   60 N to 65 S   best midnight       2016 September
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann      13 ?    varies   40 N to 70 S   evening             2016 August
LINEAR (2016 A8)              13.5    fade     50 N to 55 S   evening             2016 October
Catalina (2013 US10)         [13.5    fade     80 N to  0 N   best morning        2016 May
226P/Pigott-LINEAR-Kowalski  [14 ?    steady   80 N to 50 S   best morning        Not yet observed
The observable region is an approximate indication of the latitude at which the comet may be seen. Under good conditions comets may be visible outside this range. The period when visible is for the UK if the comet is visible from the UK, otherwise for 40 S or the Equator as appropriate.  The last visual observation is as received by the Section, details are often updated on the basis of observations published elsewhere.   Details are normally fully updated at the beginning of each month, but may be updated more frequently for comets brighter than 10th magnitude; the date of the most recent complete update is given.  Beginners will often find comets fainter than about 7th magnitude difficult to locate - see below for information on positions and finder charts.

Highlights and News

  1. 2015 V2 is about a magnitude brighter than expected from the MPC parameters.  It could come within binocular range from 2017 January and perhaps just reach naked eye brightness in June.  
  2. The future behaviour of 2015 ER61 is far from certain.  The present observations suggest that it could come into visual range towards the end of this year.  Virtually any magnitude is possible around the time of perihelion in 2017 May.
  3. The Section welcomes observations from all comet enthusiasts, whether members of the BAA or not.  An advantage of joining the BAA is that you can read papers on comets published in the BAA Journal.  The August Journal included a paper on "The brighter comets of 2008".  Further papers in this series are in press or in draft.
  4. Thanks to the many observers who have sent in their observations in ICQ format.  Imagers are encouraged to reduce their observations to equivalent visual magnitude (see Project Alcock ) and submit them in this format.  Do check the observation files (updated October 2) to see if what you sent matches what is there, as I still have to edit some of the submitted records, particularly the positioning of the DC, which should go in column 56, the position of "m" when tail length is given in minutes and the focal ratio.  If your observations are missing it may be because you have not used the correct format, which includes ICQ as a key.  If you use the Comet Observation Database to enter your observations they will be formatted correctly.


15v2obs.jpg (319604 bytes)

Comet ephemerides (positions) etc

For positions of newly discovered comets see the NEO confirmation page . You can also generate your own ephemerides and elements at the CBAT Minor Planet and Comet Ephemeris Service web page.  The elements and ephemerides from the JPL Small-Body Database Browser give estimates of the errors, which are often far larger than might be thought from the accuracy of the elements given by the CBAT.  Seiichi Yoshida has pages for currently visible comets, which include finder charts. Seiichi also has a comet rendezvous page, which lists conjunctions between comets, variable stars and nebulae and a comet recovery page, which lists periodic comets not yet recovered at the present return. The T3 project aims to discover comets amongst the population of asteroids influenced by Jupiter. 

Longer period ephemerides are given here for planning purposes for comets that may reach naked eye brightness. All are for the UK.  The ephemerides give B1950 and J2000 positions.  Modern star charts use J2000, but older atlases will use B1950.  The predicted magnitudes are extremely uncertain.

Planning aids and information for forthcoming comets

The MPC also has a list of the last observation for all comets.  Electronic observers should try and observe any comets that have not recently been observed according to the CBAT but which are expected to be within range of their equipment. Negative observations are also useful.  In addition, the MPC has orbital elements for unusual asteroids, many of which have cometary orbits. 

Finder charts

The BAA Computing Section has online charts for the comets listed here. There are daily finder charts for bright comets at Heavens Above. Reinder Bouma and Edwin van Dijk's astrosite Groningen has an excellent set of finder charts for brighter comets.

Orbits etc

The elements and ephemerides from the JPL Small-Body Database Browser give estimates of the errors, which are often far larger than might be thought from the accuracy of the elements given by the CBAT.   Full details of the latest orbits are available from Kazuo Kinoshita's Comet Orbit Home Page.  I compile orbital elements in Megastar format for: periodic comets , current comets , comets prior to 2005.  Most of the more recent elements include the latest magnitude parameters.  The elements are from a mix of CBAT catalogues, MPC, MPEC, JPL and individual orbit computers.

Downloads etc

Download Richard Fleet's GraphDark software for graphically displaying comet (and other object) visibility. Latest version is 2.05, 2007 May.

Download William Schwittek's CometWin software for generating comet ephemerides and visibility diagrams. [Updated 2002 March 5]

Download Solex, N-body solar system dynamics software.

Upcoming comets

Predictions for the comets expected to return in 2015 , 2016 [updated 2016 March 17] , 2017 [updated 2016 June 30] and 2018 [updated 2016 June 30] are published in the BAA Journal in December each year. This list [Updated 2016 June 30] gives the period of visibility and maximum brightness for comets that are predicted to be visible within the next couple of years. A few are listed further into the future. Seiichi Yoshida also has a list of comets likely to be visible in the next five years.

Contributing observations

Observations may  be used in the reports on comets which appear on these pages, in The Comet's Tale and in the BAA Journal.

Visual and visual equivalent magnitude observations should be sent to me at <jds [at]> in simple text format.  Visual observers can use the BAA visual report form to log observations.  To avoid the use of multiple formats the ICQ format is now standardised as the one to use for submission and archiving of observations, however the ICQ have not updated their observation keys since 2010.  These additional keys are suggested for use when submitting observations to the BAA (updated 2015 February 1).  Observations will continue to be published by Guy Hurst in The Astronomer magazine in TA format. There is also a visual drawing form.   I have written a data entry program that creates a file with data in the ICQ format which you can send to me by email. It now runs under Windows and is available as a self extracting zip file. [Version, 2004 February 2]. I have also written a program to convert from ICQ to TA format. 

Images should be sent to Denis Buczynski.

The German comet group also has a computer program that will correctly format observations for the ICQ [2009 December]. Crni Vhr Observatory has launched the Comet Observation Database which allows entry of observations in ICQ format, and plots of light curves. The ICQ format uses special keys to code observation particulars. 

Regular contributors include James Abbott, Jose Aguiar, Alexander Amorim, Nicolas Biver, Denis Buczynski, Paul Camilleri, Matyas Csukas, Roger Dymock, John Fletcher, Marco Goiato, Juan Gonzalez, Bjorn Granslo, Kevin Hills, Nick James, Werner Hasubick, Heinz Kerner, Carlos Labordena, Rolando Ligustri, Michael Mattiazzo, Maik Mayer, Antonio Milani, Martin Mobberley, Gabriel Oksa, Mieczyslaw  Paradowski, Stuart Rae, Walter Robledo, Tony Scarmato, Willian Souza, David Strange and Seiichi Yoshida, several of whom contribute observations from their colleagues.

Warning I receive a large number of emails containing viruses or other junk. Please try and make clear that your message is legitimate, otherwise it may be deleted without being read. It is advisable to use your own name, rather than an alias, in the 'from' field and use an obvious, recent subject.

Comments and contact

Many thanks to those that regularly access this page for your interest. If you have any comments, suggestions for improvement or find any problems, please email the visual co-ordinator, Jon Shanklin, at j.shanklin @ If you need to phone me, my home number is +44 (0)1223 571250 or my BAS number is +44 (0)1223 221482. Snail mail will reach me at the British Antarctic Survey, Madingley Road, CAMBRIDGE CB3 0ET, England. For information about my work with BAS see my web page at BAS.

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