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 Oct 7 posting from that site (used with permission) and shows comets above magnitude 12 or so that are currently in the sky. More details (including finder charts) about one or more of the comets (some possibly within binocular range) are provided below the table.


Comets Oct 7






Two good comets predicted for 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



Frank Williams sent in this amazing shot of Comet 21P taken during Starfest from his observatory in Allenford. He used his refractor (140 mm Tec) and a Canon 6D camera. Image is a stack of two 3-minute shots of the comet plus 37 one-minute images. He used Pixinsight for the processing. Total exposure time was 43 minutes.

21P-Giacobini-Zinner-43-min-stacked-37-x-1-min-2-x-3min_554K

Frank Williams Comet 21P/ 43 minutes total exposure (140 mm refractor)



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! [One to look forward to in 2022]

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].