COMET NEWS



The best site for up-to-date comet viewing information is Seichi Yosida’s comet site here: http://www.aerith.net/comet/weekly/current.html

The screen shot below is the Jan 15 posting from that site and shows comets above magnitude 11 or so that are currently in the sky. More details (including finder charts) about the brightest are provided below.

Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 1.03.26 PM




A good comet for start of 2018? (Actually not really)
Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze
(by David Dickinson Universe Today)
Astronomer Aren Heinze discovered Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze as a tiny +18th magnitude fuzzball on the night of October 2nd, 2017. The comet will juuust breech our “is interesting, take a look” +10th magnitude cutoff in the final weeks of December leading into January, perhaps topping out around +8th magnitude.

Heinze-path_ST
Comet Heinze Finder Chart Dec 20 to Jan 28 c/o Sky&Telescope Click on chart for jpg copy.

Heinze discovered his first comet as part of the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) search program looking for hazardous objects using the eight 50 cm Wright-Schmidt telescope array atop Haleakala and Mauna Loa in the Hawaiian Islands.


Read more about Comet Heinze here: Comet Heinze Universe Today

Starry Night track of C.Heinze from Dec 13 to Jan 10 (L to R) is shown below: Click to download a copy.

C. Heinze Dec 13 to Jan 14


Comet Heinze update Jan 5: Sky conditions this evening allowed for a quick image of the area around Comet Heinze -see image below. Nothing above 10th magnitude looking like a comet was detected. This is a crop from a 30 s image at ISO 3200 with a Canon 100 mm lens at f/4.5. The arrow labelled Heinze? shows the general vicinity of the comet and nothing much shows. “Kemble C.” refers to Kemble’s Cascade located in Camelopardalis. Image by John H.

Update Jan 15: Sky conditions have been very poor for the first two weeks of January and the only image I have been able to obtain is the one below. The estimates for Heinze at the top of this page show that it is now stating to fade and never got much above magnitude 10. Certainly not a binocular comet by any means.

IMG_161912_600K





Good comets predicted in September and December 2018

Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zinner and Comet 46/P Wirtanen


Sky News editor Alan Dyer has listed two comets as potentially good viewing for 2018. Here is a summary from that article in the Jan/Fen issue of Sky News.

Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zinner in Sep 2018

Periodic Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zinner is due to make a better than average re-appearance in northern skies in September. The periodic comet orbits the Sun every 6.5 years but is poorly placed most times. Not so this year. On Sep 10, 21/P reaches perihelion about the same time it is closest to Earth, “only” 58 million km away. Estimates place the brightness at between 4 and 7 (let’s hope for 4!). The comet should be visible from any dark sky location if it gets this bright. It peaks during the first two weeks of September and with new Moon on Sep 9, there is little moonlight to interfere with viewing. During that time, 21/P glides through the middle of Auriga and past 3 nice Messier objects, M36, M37 and M38. Very photogenic.

The map below shows the path of 21/P during its time in our sky from Jul 01 to Oct 01. The charts are from
www.in-the-sky.org and Starry Night for the first two weeks of September when it should be the best..

21:P G-Z Jul-Oct 2018


21:P G-Z Aug 31-Sep 22-2018




Comet 46/P Wirtanen in Dec 2018

Comet 46/P Wirtanen is the second of the pair of naked eye comets expected in 2018, but this one peaks late in the year around December. There are Moon-free periods to seek it out in the first two weeks of December and it has a nice close approach to the Pleiades on Dec 16 (Moon is just past FQ, however). This comet will be well placed in the sky during dark hours and becomes circumpolar and visible in the sky all night long from Christmas into the new year. It should still be bright on the moon-free nights in the first two weeks of January and February as well. One prediction for brightness (Seichi Yoshida) indicates magnitude 3 for Jan 2019!

The map below shows the path of 46/P during its time in our sky from Dec 01 to Apr 01, 2019. The chart is from
www.in-the-sky.org

46:P Wirtanen late 2018




New Comet discovered by PanSTARRS waaaaaayyy out there beyond Saturn!

A brand new comet has been spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope, and remarkably, even though it is still far enough away from the Sun that its water ice would be as hard as rock, it is already showing signs of activity.
That makes this new comet, called C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), or just K2 for short, the farthest active comet astronomers have ever seen - at a distance of 2.4 billion kilometres from the Sun, which is beyond the orbit of Saturn.
Discovered in May in 2017, using Hawaii's Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to get a better look at "K2".
Hubble revealed that the comet's coma - the gassy, dusty "atmosphere" that surrounds the comet's solid nucleus - was already around 115,000 km across. That's roughly the diameter of the planet Saturn! Closest approach to the Sun is predicted for 2022.

Read more about it here:
Comet K2 (PanSTARRS)

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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! [Maybe it will be Comet C/2017 K2 PanSTARRS , see above].