Vagabonds from space visit the inner solar system!
Here's What's Up!
Here are the comets of interest that are visible:
C/2020 S3 Erasmus - Discovered by Nicolas Erasmus during the ATLAS search program on Sept. 17, 2020. Perihelion for this comet is Dec. 13, 2020 and coincidentally a lunar occultation on this date will occur during daylight hours. An early morning comet, it is currently at mag 9
in the constellation of Corvus.
This comet is expected to be another 2020 dazzler, although it never gets very close to Earth. (1.04 AU)
C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) - Discovered by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) search program, comet C/2020 M3 clocked in ~8.5 in late October. The perihelion date was October 24. It is fading as it passes into Orion.
88P/Howell perihelion date is September 28, 2020. This comet was discovered on August 29, 1981 by Ellen Howell at Palomar Observatory.
C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) returning from perihelion as a ~1st magnitude comet! NEOWISE was closest to Earth on ~July 23. Still above 10th mag in October, this comet is visible low in the morning sky from the northern hemisphere.
The Minor Planet Center also provides ephemrides that can be imported into your planetarium programs and telescope pointing programs. This includes Astra's favorite open source planetarium program Stellarium.
Share Astra's Comet Page
The Must-See Comet of 2020
For many astronomers, predicting whether or not a comet will be very bright is a tough challenge. In 2020, Comet C/2020 F3 took astronomers by surprise when it brightened up tremendously after its perihelion visit to the Sun. This sleeper was discovered on March 27, 2020 by the NEOWISE space telescope.
The comet was a 16-mag object when discovered. It was 2.1 au from the Sun at that time. It brightened quickly and reached 10th magnitude by the end of April. Perihelion was on July 3 and it will be 0.69 au at its closest approach to Earth around July 22.
For more information, check out the What's Up Almanac topic for July 2020.
C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) at 2:35 UT from Oria, Italy
Credit: Giuseppe Donatiello
The image below was created by Tom Ruen and licensed under
CC BY-SA 4.0 and can be found on Wikipedia for more information. The bright yellow line in the diagram represents the ecliptic.
Recent Comet Brightness Estimates - reported to the Minor Planet Center at Harvard. Check here to see what comet observations have been made and submitted to the Center. Magnitude estimates are made by the astronomers and are subjective unless otherwise stated.
Read Astra's Comet Paper!
Images of the original artwork by Lauri Kunkel! ! !
My observations of past comets:
Read Trailing the Comet Hale-Bopp,
Astra's observations of C/1995 01
Observations of Hyakutake - Mar 16.26, Mar 23.23, Mar 24.26 & Closest Approach - - by Astra
Links to Great Comet Stuff!
Make A Comet Ephemeris for your location!
My Comet Hunting Hero - David Levy's Home Page - Latest Discovery October 2006
The Comet Hunter - Don Machholtz (discovered 11 comets)
Comet Missions and Exploration from Space!
- Rosetta Mission - Comet Exploration Mission (Mars Swing by Feb. 25, 2007.) Arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2016. It deployed its probe, Philae, to the surface of the comet. Rosetta followed the periodic comet through perihelion on Aug. 13, 2015. On Sept 30, 2016, the Rosetta spacecraft performed a controlled crash on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to end its mission.
- Stardust - NASA Sample Return Mission
- Stardust@Home - Study returned samples using your home computer
- JPL's List of Asteroid and CometSpacecraft Missions
- Deep Impact Legacy Site
Great Comets that shone during the Age of Information
Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2)
At last, an exciting comet that wasn't overbilled in the media. This comet was the fifth comet discovered by comet hunter Terry Lovejoy. Using CCD camera images taken with a Celestron C-8 telescope, Lovejoy found this comet from Queensland, Australia on August 17, 2014. A long period comet, the perihelion date for Comet Lovejoy was January 30, 2015. Closest approach to Earth was January 7 when it was 43.6 million miles or 70.2 million km away from us. It reached 4th magnitude within the limits for observing with the unaided eye.
The image of C/2014 Q2, Comet Lovejoy was taken by Alan Dyer. This was posted at Alan's site on Flickr. Used by permission, this image is ©2014 Alan Dyer.
Check out Alan's site, Amazing Sky for more on astrophotography.
Off-site Information on Comet Q2
Earthsky information on Comet Lovejoy
How To See Comet Lovejoy Tonight
- contains finder charts
©2013 Damian Peach
- This image was taken on November 7, 2013
Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)
Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) was sun grazing comet was discovered on September 21, 2012 by Artyom Novichonok and Vitali Nevski, using a 16-inch telescope that is part of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON). It was nicknamed the Holiday comet because its perihelion date was November 28, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Despite high expectations, this comet broke apart due to its close encounter with the Sun. After a long life of 4.5 billion years, ISON was destroyed at perihelion.
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign
Comet ISON comes to Life - John Bortle reports from Sky & Telescope
Comet ISON is Coming - Michael Kelley Blog
Comet 2006P/1 McNaught
The brightest comet of the new millenium so far! C/2006 P1 a.ka. Comet McNaught. Discovered by Robert McNaught of the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia on August 7, 2006. Perihelion was January 12, 2007. Peak magnitude estimate -0.6! This comet will be long remembered for its magnificent tail.
So long, Comet McNaught, it won't be back to visit the inner solar system again.
Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3
In 1995, Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 split into "mini-comets" flying single file through space, much like Shoemaker/Levy9 that crashed into Jupiter. Closest approach to Earth: 5 million miles on May 15, 2006.
Old comets never die, they merely fade....
OR crash into planets....OR break up into pieces....OR hit the sun...Or are flung out of the solar system never to return
Comet Hyakutake Pages
This false-color image of Hyakutake was made on the WIYN Telescope and provided courtesy of the WIYN Consortium, Inc.
D/1993 F2 The Comet that collided with Jupiter! Links to info on Shoemaker-Levy9
And when they fade, they really fade...here's a Halley Page:
Views of the Solar System Halley Page
Well, 1986 was a bit before the age of information, wasn't it???