British Astronomical Association
Director: Nick James
Visual observations page
(Co-ordinator Jonathan Shanklin)
Jan 28 Peter Berrett reports a non-group comet in archival C2 images
Jan 28 Peter Berrett reports a Meyer group comet in archival C2 images
Jan 29 Recovery of 2010 A5 (P/LINEAR) as 2020 Y5 reported
Feb 02 Parth Bhagat reports a non-group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 04 Discovery of 2021 B3 (NEOWISE) reported
Feb 06 Discovery of 2021 A10 (NEOWISE)
Feb 08 Worachate Boonplod reports a Marsden group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 11 Worachate Boonplod reports three Kreutz group comets in real time C3 images
Feb 12 Worachate Boonplod reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 14 Worachate Boonplod reports a non-group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 14 Szymon Liwo reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 16 Recovery of 2015 F1 (P/PanSTARRS) reported
Feb 23 Peter Berrett reports a non-group comet in delayed C2 images
Feb 24 Worachate Boonplod reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Feb 24 Discovery of 2021 C1 (Rankin) reported
Feb 24 Discovery of 2021 C2 (P/PanSTARRS) reported
Feb 25 2015 F1 recovery designated as 2021 A11
Feb 25 Worachate Boonplod reports two Kreutz group comets in real time C3 images
Feb 25 Michael Mattiazzo reports a possible SWAN comet
Feb 26 Discovery of 2021 C3 (Catalina) reported
Feb 26 Discovery of 2021 C4 (ATLAS) reported
Feb 26 Trygve Prestgard reports a Kreutz group comet in archival C3 images
Feb 27 Update
If there have been no recent updates try The German comet group page
or Seiichi Yoshida's page for information or the
Liga Iberoamericana de Astronomia for observations.
Elsewhere on these pages:
Newly discovered comets /
Periodic comets /
Contributing observations /
Comet Ephemerides /
Upcoming Comets /
Observing Comets / Links /
Meetings / Publications /
Comments and Contacts /
Old 2021 News / Comet discovery procedure /
Weather information /
The Comet's Tale / BAA
Comet Section image archive / Project Alcock
/ More information /
Legacy page /
Main BAA Comet Section page
Current comet magnitudes and observable region
Comet Magnitude Trend Observable When visible Last visual observation
2020 R4 (ATLAS) 7 steady 40 N to 50 S early morning 2021 January
P/STEREO (2021 A3) 10 fade Poor elongation 2021 January
2021 A2 (NEOWISE) 11 fade 60 N to 60 S best evening 2021 February
2020 M3 (ATLAS) 11 fade 90 N to 15 S best evening 2021 February
88P/Howell 11 fade Poor elongation 2021 February
141P/Machholz 11 fade 55 N to 45 S evening 2021 February
2020 S3 (Erasmus) 12 fade Conjunction 2020 December
156P/Russell-LINEAR 12.5 fade 90 N to 15 S evening 2021 February
2021 A4 (NEOWISE) 12.5 bright 90 N to 5 N all night Not yet observed
2019 N1 (ATLAS) 12.5 fade 0 N to 60 S best morning 2021 February
398P/Boatttini 13 fade 80 N to 40 S best evening 2021 January
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 13 ? varies 85 N to 35 S best evening 2021 January
2020 T2 (Palomar) 13.5 bright 85 N to 30 S best morning Not yet observed
2019 L3 (ATLAS) 13.5 bright 90 N to 10 N evening 2020 December
2017 T2 (PanSTARRS) 13.5 fade 10 N to 50 S early morning 2020 September
Details are usually updated at the beginning of each
month, but may be updated more frequently for brighter comets. The last
update was on February 7. The observable region is an approximate indication of the latitude at
which the comet may be seen. Under good conditions comets may be visible
outside this range. The period when visible is for the UK if the comet
is visible from the UK, otherwise for 40 S or the Equator as appropriate.
The last visual observation is as received by the Section, details are often updated on
the basis of observations published elsewhere. Beginners will often find comets fainter than about 7th magnitude difficult to
locate - see below for information on positions and finder charts.
Highlights and News
The Section welcomes observations from all comet enthusiasts, whether members of the
BAA or not. An advantage of joining the BAA is that you can read papers on comets
published in the BAA Journal. The 2021 February Journal included a paper on "The
brighter comets of 2017". Further papers in this series are in press (2018 - 2019).
A paper drawing conclusions from the series is in preparation.
2020 R4 could be a binocular object in the early morning sky. UK
observers might pick it up towards the end of the first week of March.
Although some sources are hyping the prospects for 2021 A1 (Leonard),
which might or might not reach 4th magnitude at the end of the year, they do
not mention that the comet will be visible in the morning sky. You
will need to be up at 6am to see it.
- I would like to thank all those who have sent me congratulations on the
naming of a small piece of Antarctica as
Shanklin Glacier. Exploration of icy parts of the world clearly
runs in the blood as my great-grandfather kept diaries which record the
passage of a comet below the Plough, the discovery of a comet by his
brother, Bernard Thomas, from Tasmania and the expeditions to Antarctica by
Scott and Shackleton. See also this BBC report.
- Details of the discovery, observations and analyses of new comets which
were discovered during
2018 [updated 2020 September 20] ,
2019 [updated 2020 December 18] ,
2020 [updated 2021 January 29] ,
2021 [updated 2021 February 26]
Note that in general only details of currently visually observable comets are
updated and that analyses of the brighter comets of past years will be published in the BAA Journal.
- Details, observations and analyses of periodic comets numbered
1 - 100 [updated 2020 December 8],
101 - 199 [updated 2021 January 5],
200 - 299 [updated 2020 July 26],
300 - 399 [updated 2021 January 23],
400 - 499 [updated 2021 February 25]
cometary asteroids, potentially numberable comets and periodic SOHO comets
[updated 2020 May 30].
- A list of SOHO comets discovered during 2000 ,
2020 [updated 2021 February 25] ,
2021 [updated 2021 February 27] and SOHO X/ comets.
- Observations submitted in ICQ format for comets of
2006 , 2007 ,
2008 , 2009 ,
2010 , 2011 ,
2012 , 2013 ,
2014 , 2015 ,
2016 , 2017 ,
2018 , 2019 ,
2020 [updated 2021 February 2] and 2021 [updated 2021
Observations submitted or published in ICQ.
Observations in COBS.
Light curves of comets that may become brighter than 10th
magnitude (aperture corrected for potential naked eye comets) [click on
thumbnail to get the full scale image, updated on 2020 December 2]. The
dotted lines represent 99% confidence limits. None at present.
Comet magnitude parameters [ updated 2021 February 18].
- Full IAUC details of SOHO Kreutz group and other comets announced during
- General information on Kreutz and sun approaching comets
[updated 2009 May 12], on LASCO, STEREO and the Kreutz comets
and a list of all SOHO comets [updated 2016 June 2].
- Daily news from
1999 / 2000 /
2001 / 2002 /
2003 / 2004 /
2005 / 2006 /
2007 / 2008 /
2009 / 2010 /
2011 / 2012 /
2013 / 2014 /
2015 / 2016 /
2017 / 2018 /
2019 / 2020 /
- Maik Meyer's comet mailing list
- Contact Nick James <ndj [at] nickdjames.com>
to be added to the distribution list for the BAA Comet Section electronic discussion forum.
Comet ephemerides (positions) etc
For positions of newly discovered comets see the
NEO confirmation page
. You can also generate your own ephemerides and elements at the CBAT
Minor Planet and Comet
Ephemeris Service web page. The elements and ephemerides from the JPL Small-Body Database Browser
give estimates of the errors, which are often far larger than might be thought from the
accuracy of the elements given by the CBAT. Seiichi Yoshida has pages for
currently visible comets, which include finder charts. Seiichi also has a
comet rendezvous page,
which lists conjunctions between comets, variable stars and nebulae and a
comet recovery page, which
lists periodic comets not yet recovered at the present return. The
T3 project aims to discover comets
amongst the population of asteroids influenced by Jupiter.
Planning aids and information for forthcoming comets, valid out to about 2025.
- Comets reaching within three degrees of 180° opposition
[updated 2013 December 31]
- Comets reaching within three degrees of zero phase angle
[updated 2013 December 31]
The MPC also has a
list of the last observation
for all comets. Electronic observers should try and observe any
comets that have not recently been observed according to the CBAT but which
are expected to be within range of their equipment. Negative observations
are also useful. In addition, the MPC has orbital elements for
unusual asteroids, many of
which have cometary orbits.
The BAA Computing Section has
for the comets listed here. There are daily finder charts for bright comets at
Heavens Above. Reinder Bouma and
Edwin van Dijk's
astrosite Groningen has an excellent
finder charts for
brighter comets, which also show suitable comparison stars.
The elements and ephemerides from the JPL Small-Body Database Browser
give estimates of the errors, which are often far larger than might be thought from the
accuracy of the elements given by the CBAT. Full details of the latest orbits are available from Kazuo Kinoshita's
Comet Orbit Home Page. I compile orbital elements in
Megastar format for: numbered periodic comets ,
(updated 2021 January 31) and
comets prior to 2006. Most of the more recent elements
include the latest magnitude parameters. The elements are from a mix of CBAT
catalogues, MPC, MPEC, JPL and individual orbit computers.
Download Richard Fleet's
GraphDark software for graphically displaying comet (and other object) visibility. Latest
version is 2.05, 2007 May.
Download William Schwittek's CometWin software
for generating comet ephemerides and visibility diagrams. [Updated 2002 March 5]
Download Solex, N-body solar system dynamics software.
Predictions for the comets expected to return in
2021 [updated 2021 January 15], 2022 [updated 2021
January 15] and 2023
[Created 2021 January 16] are published in the BAA Journal in December each year.
[Updated 2021 January 16] gives the period of visibility and maximum
brightness for comets that are predicted to be visible within the next
few years. A few are listed further into the future.
Seiichi Yoshida also has a list
of comets likely to be visible in the next five years.
Observations may be used in the reports on comets
which appear on these pages, in The Comet's Tale and in the BAA Journal.
Guidance on observing is given in the BAA Comet Observing Guide
Thanks to the many observers who do send in
their observations in ICQ format. Imagers are encouraged to reduce their
observations to equivalent visual magnitude (see
) and submit them in this format. Do check the observation files to see if what
you sent matches what is there, as I still have to edit some of the submitted records,
particularly the position of "m" when tail
length is given in minutes, the focal ratio and the designation of periodic
comets 1-99. If your observations are missing it may be because you have not used the correct format,
which includes ICQ as a key. If you use the
Comet Observation Database
to enter your observations they will be formatted correctly, but
please send them to me for inclusion in TA.
Visual and visual equivalent magnitude observations should be sent to me at <jds [at] ast.com.ac.uk> in
simple text format.
Visual observers can use
the BAA visual report form
to log observations. To avoid the use of multiple formats the ICQ format
, which uses special
keys to code
observation particulars, is now standardised as the one to use for submission and archiving of
observations. The ICQ have not updated their observation keys since 2010, so these additional
keys are suggested for use when submitting observations to the BAA (updated 2020
October 3). Crni Vhr Observatory has launched
the Comet Observation Database which allows entry of observations
in ICQ format, and plots of light curves. Visual observations entered using this system
should be emailed to me at the end of the month. Observations are
usually analysed and sent to TA as soon as possible after the end of the month
with a TA deadline of the 2nd; any late
observations will be used in subsequent analyses. Observations will continue to be published by Guy Hurst in
magazine in TA format.
There is also a visual drawing form. The German comet group also has a computer program that will
correctly format observations for the ICQ [2009 December].
should be sent to Denis Buczynski.
Regular contributors include James Abbott, Jose Aguiar, Alexander Amorim,
Nicolas Biver, Denis Buczynski, Paul Camilleri, Peter Carson, Matyas Csukas, Roger Dymock, John Fletcher, Marco Goiato, Juan Gonzalez,
Bjorn Granslo, Werner Hasubick,
Kevin Hills, Nick James, Heinz Kerner,
Carlos Labordena, Rolando Ligustri, Michael Mattiazzo, Maik Mayer, Antonio Milani,
Martin Mobberley, Jose Navarro Pina, Gabriel Oksa, Mieczyslaw Paradowski,
Nirmal Paul, Stuart Rae, Walter Robledo,
Tony Scarmato, Willian Souza, David Strange Johan Warrell and Seiichi Yoshida,
several of whom contribute observations from their colleagues. Thanks are
due to all of them.
Warning I receive a large number of emails
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Comments and contact
Many thanks to those that regularly access this page for your interest.
If you have any comments, suggestions for improvement or find any problems,
please email the visual co-ordinator,
Jon Shanklin, at j.shanklin @ bas.ac.uk.
If you need to phone me, my home number is +44 (0)1223 571250
or my BAS number is +44 (0)1223 221482.
Snail mail will reach
me at the British Antarctic Survey, Madingley Road, CAMBRIDGE CB3 0ET, England.
For information about my work with BAS see my
web page at BAS.
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