British Astronomical Association

Comet Section

Visual observations page


(Co-ordinator Jonathan Shanklin)


Latest Discoveries

Jan 04  Worachate Boonplod reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C2 images
Jan 05  Secondary component of 2015 Y2 designated
Jan 07  Discovery of 2016 A1 (PanSTARRS) reported
Jan 07  Discovery of 2016 A2 (P/Christensen) reported
Jan 07  Discovery of 2016 A3 (PanSTARRS) reported
Jan 09  Bo Zhou reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Jan 10  Cometary activity detected in 2007 VA85
Jan 11  Recovery of 2001 F1 (P/NEAT) as 2016 A4 reported
Jan 16  Discovery of 2016 A5 (PanSTARRS) reported
Jan 18  Bo Zhou reports a Meyer group comet in real time C2 images
Jan 19  Discovery of 2016 A6 (PanSTARRS) reported
Jan 19  Michal Biesiada reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Jan 22  Discovery of 2016 A7 (P/PanSTARRS) reported
Jan 22  Discovery of 2016 B1 (NEOWISE) reported
Jan 29  Zhijian Xu reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Jan 29  Discovery of 2016 A8 (LINEAR) reported
Jan 29  Discovery of 2015 VL62 reported
Feb 01  Cometary nature of 2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) reported
Feb 01  Cometary nature of 2015 PD229 (ISON-Cameron) reported
Feb 04  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 2015 News / Comet discovery procedure / Weather information / The Comet's Tale / BAA Comet Section image archive / More information / Legacy page

Current comet magnitudes and observable region (February 4)

Comet	                  Magnitude   Trend    Observable     When visible        Last visual observation
Catalina (2013 US10)           8      fade     90 N to  0 S   all night           2016 February
PanSTARRS (2013 X1)            8      bright   90 N to 20 S   evening             2016 February
PanSTARRS (2014 S2)           10      fade     90 N to  0 N   all night           2016 January
81P/Wild                      12      bright   85 N to 45 S   best evening        Not yet observed
PanSTARRS (2014 W2)           12.5    steady   90 N to 25 N   all night           2016 January
116P/Wild                     12.5    steady   40 N to 50 S   morning             2016 January
Spacewatch (2011 KP36)        13      steady   Poor elongation                    2015 September
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann      13 ?    varies   Poor elongation                    2015 October
10P/Tempel                    13      fade     Poor elongation                    2015 November
22P/Kopff                     13      fade     Poor elongation                    2015 November
Lovejoy (2014 Q2)             13      fade     85 N to  5 S   morning             2015 October
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 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. 2013 US10 is now fading quite rapidly and becoming more diffuse, making it difficult for visual observers.   
  2. 2013 X1 is brightening quite rapidly, though it is probably premature to say that it is in outburst.  The recent observations that lead to the claims were only just outside the 99% upper confidence limit of the mean curve, which is not unusual.  There are also observations that are the same amount below the curve, however there were no claims that it was disintegrating.  It is large and diffuse and again a difficult object.
  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 December Journal included a paper on "The brighter comets of 2006".  Further papers in this series are in press or in draft.
  4. Nick James is the Director of the Comet Section.  Jonathan Shanklin is the visual observations co-ordinator - please send him all visual and visual equivalent observations.  Images should be sent to Denis Buczynski.
  5. For information that used to be shown here see the Legacy page.
  6. A BAA Observers Workshop including comets took place on September 26 in London.  Here are my slides showing the use of visual and visual equivalent observations.
  7. 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 and submit them in this format.  Do check the observation files (updated January 16) 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, and the position of "m" when tail length is given in minutes.  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.
  8. Roger Dymock continues to develop his Project Alcock website, with updates posted regularly.  Observers submitting images are encouraged to reduce their images and provide the data in ICQ format for use in analysis.  Nick James has simplified software under test that will make the reduction easier.

Details

2013us.jpg (291501 bytes)2013x1.jpg (303818 bytes)2014s2.jpg (200287 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.

  • Currently none

Planning aids and information for forthcoming comets

  • Rosetta  Do sign up to the Rosetta amateur campaign.  
  • Comets reaching within three degrees of 180 opposition [updated 2013 December 31]
  • Comets reaching within three degrees of zero phase angle [updated 2013 December 31]

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 the January 2015 newsletter, which has a report of an RAS meeting, an article on Rosetta, plus the usual reviews and forecasts.  

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 January 2] , 2017 [updated 2016 January 2] and 2018 [updated 2016 January 2] are published in the BAA Journal in December each year. This list [Updated 2015 October 28] 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] ast.com.ac.uk> 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. [New version, 2004 February 2]. I have also written a program to convert from ICQ to TA format. 

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 @ bas.ac.uk. 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.


Published by jds@ast.cam.ac.uk