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Astra's Guide to Comets!

Vagabonds from space visit the inner solar system!

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Here's What's Up!

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is a periodic comet that visits the inner solar system every 71 years. The comet was first discovered by Jean-Louis Ponson July 12, 1812. On its next return to the inner solar system, the comet was recovered by William Robert Brooks in 1883. The comet's periodic visits were not yet established but eventually it became known was 12P/Pons-Brooks.

On April 21st, 2024, the comet will reach perihelion, when it is expected to be about 4.5 magnitude. Its closest approach to Earth occurs on June 2, 2024 when the comet is on its way back to the outer solar system. On April 8, 2024, during the total solar eclipse, the comet will be 24 degrees East of the Sun and the Moon.

The Minor Planet Center also provides ephemerides that can be imported into your planetarium programs and telescope pointing programs. This includes Astra's favorite open source planetarium program Stellarium.

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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.

Links to Great Comet Stuff!

Make A Comet Ephemeris for your location!

Comet Hunters

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!

Bright Comets in the last few decades

C/2023 P1 (Nishimura)

Comet P1 Nishimura was discovered by a Japanese amateur astronomer, Hideo Nishimura. This is the third comet that bears his name! He also discovered C/1994 N1 (Nakamura-Nishimura-Machholz) and C/2021 O1 (Nishimura). He also discovered a nova, V6596 Sagittari. Mr. Nishimura discovered the comet in images he obtained with a Canon EOS 6D camera using 200-mm f/3 telephoto lens. He initially identified the comet on August 12, 2023, but found that he had also taken its image the previous night.

Comet Nishimura is now known to be a periodic comet (hence the "P" in its name.) Its last visit to the inner solar system was 433 years ago. The comet also showed up in the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) data in January 2023, but was not identified before Nishimura's discovery.It has been noted that the Nishimura comet may be the cause of the Sigma-Hydrid meteor shower that occurs annually in December.

This image of C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) was downloaded from Creative Commons. It was taken on August 25, 2023 at ~6:20 (UTC+2)from Trevinca-Skies on Spain. The field of view is 43.2' x 43.2'.

C/2023 P1 (Nishimura)<
C/2023 P1 (Nishimura)

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C/2022 E3 (ZTF) - It is a long period comet that was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility on March 2, 2022. Perihelion occured on January 12, 2023 but its closest approach to Earth (0.29 AU or 42 million km) came on the outbound leg of E3's visit on February 1. This comet returns to the inner solar system every 50,000 years. The coma is very green and the tail wass quite long. The image featured here was taken by Lorenzo Busilacchi using a C-11 telescope and retreived from Flickr on January 17, 2023.

Many people asked why Comet E3 was so green. This was explained in a YouTube video by Anton Petrov - Green Comet Returns After 50,000 Years, But Why Is It Green? (C/2022 E3 Features Explained)

The green coma of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is caused by the breaking down of diatom carbons. Anton explains in depth and very well.

C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

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Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise trajectory plotted by Tom Ruen

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Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2)

Comet Lovejoy taken by Alan Dyer

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 - still interesting

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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
NASA's Swift Sizes Up Comet ISON

Damien Peach image of comet ISON November 7, 2013
©2013 Damian Peach - This image was taken on November 7, 2013

Comet 2006P/1 McNaught

The brightest comet of the new millennium so far! C/2006 P1 a.k.a. 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.

Comet Hale-Bopp

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 C/1996 B2 image
This false-color image of Hyakutake
was made on the WIYN Telescope.
Courtesy of the WIYN Consortium, Inc.

Comet Hyakutake Pages

D/1993 F2 The Comet that collided with Jupiter! Links to info on Shoemaker-Levy9

And when they fade, they really's a Halley Page:

Views of the Solar System Halley Page
Well, 1986 was a bit before the age of information, wasn't it???

One more link:

- Astro Bob - articles on comets and other astronomical objects

Last update: March 23, 2024

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