British Astronomical Association
Visual observations page
(Co-ordinator Jonathan Shanklin)
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 Trygve Prestgard reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 05 Recovery of 2008 Y2 (P/Gibbs) as 2016 A9 reported
Feb 06 Bo Zhou reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 06 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:
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 /
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
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
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.
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.
- 2013 US10 is now fading quite rapidly and becoming more diffuse, making it difficult
for visual observers.
- 2013 X1 has brightened quite rapidly, though orbital geometry is now putting a brake
on the rate. It is premature to
say that it was 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.
- 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
- 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.
- For information that
used to be shown here see the
- Details of the discovery, observations and analyses of new comets which
were discovered during
2011 [updated 2015 August 31],
2012 [updated 2015 May 17],
2013 [updated 2016 February 4],
2014 [updated 2016 February 4],
2015 [updated 2016 February 1] and
2016 [updated 2016 February 6]. Note that in general only details of currently
visually observable comets are
updated and that analyses of the brighter comets of past years will be published in the BAA Journal.
- Details, observations and analyses of periodic comets numbered
1 - 100 [updated 2016 February 4],
101 - 199 [updated 2016 February 4],
200 - 299, [updated 2015 September 3],
300 - 399, [updated 2016 February 6] and
cometary asteroids, potentially numberable comets and periodic SOHO comets
[updated 2015 May 17].
- A list of SOHO comets discovered during 2000 ,
2015 [updated 2016 January 13],
2016 [updated 2016 January 20],
and SOHO X/ comets.
- Observations submitted in ICQ format for comets of
2006 , 2007 ,
2008 , 2009 ,
2010 , 2011 ,
2012 , 2013 ,
2014 , 2015 ,
2016 , 2017 and
[updated 2016 January 16] . Observations submitted or published in ICQ.
Observations in COBS.
- Light curves of comets brighter than 10th magnitude or predicted to become that
bright (aperture corrected for potential naked eye
comets) [click on thumbnail to get full scale image updated on February 4]. The
future light curve for 2013 X1
is still uncertain . The dotted lines represent 99% confidence
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
Planning aids and information for forthcoming comets
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.
The BAA Computing Section has
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
finder charts for
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.
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.
Predictions for the comets expected to return in
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.
[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.
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
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
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
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.
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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.
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