COMET NEWS


Predictions are for a half-dozen binocular comets in 2017!
These include:

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (quick brightening to 6.5 in Feb, now magnitude 17)
Comet (C/2016 U1) NEOWISE (a 16th mag comet all year -good luck)
Comet 2P/Encke (now faint in southern skies only, mag. 13 and fading)
Comet (C/2015 ER61) PanSTARRS (outburst to mag. 6.2 Apr 4, but low in N. hemisphere)
See chart below:
Comet (C/2015 V2) Johnson (now appearing as binocular view)
See finder chart below:
Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak (now circumpolar below Lyra)
See finder chart below:
Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann (a faint 13th magnitude southern skies comet)


Sky & Telescope has more information at this link:
S&T Comets for 2017
and Earth-Sky.org has some information here:
Visible Comets 2017/18



Comet C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) has created a flurry of excitement with some estimating its peak magnitude as bright as +2. Discovered as an asteroid in 2015, it was later shown to exhibit a coma and renamed as a comet. Most sources I've checked, including Seiichi Yoshida's excellent Weekly Bright Comets and JPL's Horizon site, put C/2015 ER61 at magnitude +7 from mid-April through mid-May. No complaints here. Any comet visible in binoculars is a gift, and every one of them looks even more amazing in a telescope. Still, some may struggle to find this cotton ball. Why? C/2015 ER61 has a serious altitude problem for observers at mid-northern latitudes throughout its apparition. The comet tracks along the ecliptic never far behind the Sun. This month, the 30″ diameter, 13th-magnitude comet creeps from Libra into Scorpius, keeping observers at bay until the very start of dawn, when it finally reaches a somewhat reasonable height above the horizon. When brightest in May, it will be crossing from Aquarius to Pisces.



2017-ER61-FINAL-wide-mag7.0_4am



Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) may put on a nice show in May and June. It is predicted to peak around magnitude +6.5 in early June as it slides down the eastern side of Boötes high in the southern sky before the mosquitoes return. Currently at magnitude +11.5, 1′ in diameter and moderately condensed, this comet is warming up for its spring performance in the morning sky in northern Boötes. An 8-incher should coax it into view using magnifications of 100× and higher.

Johnson-May-early-June-2017-768x833




Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak I saved what might become the brightest comet for last, and we touched on this one in a blog last November as one of the three periodic comets that are making extremely close passes of Earth in the next two years. Come April, as it tears across the northern circumpolar sky, it may max out at magnitude +6 and become faintly visible with the naked eye under rural skies. While that's exciting enough to contemplate, this comet is known for outrageous outbursts. Twice in 1973 it underwent 10-magnitude eruptions! More recently, in December 2001, it shot up three magnitudes unexpectedly. Watch out for this live wire!

Chart below shows track of Comet 41P/T-G-K to June 13/17
41P-May-June-768x747



Universe Today writer David Dickinson has an update for this comet here: Universe Today Comet 41P



For up-to-date information on all the recently discovered comets, check this excellent website: http://www.aerith.net/comet/weekly/current.html . Screen snap below is from Seiichi Yosida's website and illustrates the brightest comets in the sky presently. More information including brightness prediction graphs are found at the website. All graphics and information is by Seiichi Yoshida and is provided with his kind permission. Screen snap below was obtained Feb 25, 2017.

Screen shot 2017-06-04 at 6.38.55 PM




Our Next Great Comet is OVERDUE!

Tim Reyes writes for EarthSky.org. One of his recent excellent articles is called
"When is Our Next Great Comet?" An interesting read!