British Astronomical Association

Comet Section

Director: Nick James

Visual observations page


(Co-ordinator Jonathan Shanklin)

Latest Discoveries and news

Dec 27  Robert Pickard reports a Kreutz group comet in archival C2 images
Dec 27  Trygve Prestgard reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C2 images
Jan 05  Peter Berrett reports a non-group comet in real time C2 images
Jan 06  Discovery of 2021 Y1 (ATLAS) reported
Jan 07  Discovery of 2022 A1 (Sarneczky) reported
Jan 11  Zesheng Yang reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Jan 11  Recovery of 1997 B1 (P/Kobayashi) as 2021 W2 reported
Jan 13  Worachate Boonplod reports two Kreutz group comets in real time C3 images
Jan 16  Worachate Boonplod reports two Kreutz group comets in real time C3 images
Jan 17  Zesheng Yang reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Jan 22  Dmitriy Zhizherunov reports a Kreutz group comet in real time C3 images
Jan 24  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: Highlights / 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
2021 A1 (Leonard)              7.5    fade      30 S to 50 S   early evening       2022 January
2019 L3 (ATLAS)                9      steady    90 N to 40 S   all night           2022 January
19P/Borrelly                   9      bright    75 N to 50 S   evening             2022 January
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko      9.5    fade      90 N to 45 S   best morning        2022 January
104P/Kowal                    11      steady    70 N to 50 S   evening             2022 January
6P/d'Arrest                   11      fade      40 N to 45 S   evening             2022 January
2017 K2 (PanSTARRS)           11.5    bright    80 N to 50 N   early morning       2022 January
4P/Faye                       12      fade      75 N to 50 S   all night           2021 December
57P/du Toit-Neujman-Delporte  12      outburst  Poor elongation                    2021 October
2019 T4 (ATLAS)               12.5    bright    30 N to 50 S   morning             2022 January
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann      13 ?    varies    90 N to 30 S   best evening        2021 December
8P/Tuttle                     13      fade      30 S to 50 S   early morning       2021 November
9P/Tempel                     13.5    bright    35 N to 20 S   early morning       Not yet observed
116P/Wild                     13.5    bright    80 N to 45 S   best morning        Not yet observed
108P/Ciffreo                  14      fade      90 N to 20 S   all night           2022 January
Details are usually fully updated at the beginning of each month, but some minor updates may be made more frequently, particularly for brighter comets.  The last (partial) update was on January 23.  The magnitude is a rough value for the mean magnitude reported; some observers will see the comet brighter than this, whilst others will see it fainter.  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  

  1. 2021 A1 is still visible in early evening skies at locations between about 30 S and 50 S. It was at perihelion on January 3.  Its solar elongation is decreasing and it will have moved to a poor solar elongation for observing by the end of the month.  It will re-emerge into the morning sky towards the end of February.  The comet has varied in brightness, possibly suggesting that the nucleus is quite friable.  This may be the normal activity pattern of the comet, indicative of a weakly cohesive nucleus.  Jet activity has been reported from the nucleus. No doubt the comet will continue to surprise us. 
  2. 2019 L3 was an easy object with a well condensed coma in the Northumberland refractor on December 31.  67P was a similar magnitude, but less well condensed and harder to see.  19P was also a similar magnitude, but difficult to see in the Northumberland on January 4.  Later than night 2019 L3 was quite easy in 25x100B from the centre of Cambridge. 
  3. 104P has brightened rapidly.  It should stay this bright throughout January.  This return sees its smallest perihelion distance yet at 1.07 au on January 11.
  4. 2017 K2 is now brightening a little more rapidly.  The light curve below only utilises observations made during 2021.
  5. The observations of 67P at this return do not currently support evidence for either a secular trend in the absolute magnitude or a dependence on perihelion distance.  The comet does however usually show a linear light curve that peaks around a month after perihelion.  The comet was at perihelion on November 2.
  6.  A pro-am meeting is being planned for 2022 June in Europe.
  7. 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.  A write up of my George Alcock lecture, which tells a little of the Antarctic story is in press.
  8. 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 (2018 - 2019) and a paper drawing conclusions from the series are in press, with 2020 under review.

Details


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. 

Finder charts

The BAA Computing Section has online charts 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 set of finder charts for brighter comets, which also show suitable comparison stars.

Orbits etc

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 (Kazuo died in 2021 July and his web page hadn't been updated since 2020 February).  I compile orbital elements in Megastar format for: numbered periodic comets , recent comets (updated 2022 January 4) 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.

Downloads etc

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.


Upcoming comets

Predictions for the comets expected to return in 2021 [updated 2021 January 15], 2022 [updated 2022 January 7], 2023 [Updated 2022 January 7] and 2024 [Updated 2022 January 7] are published in the BAA Journal in December each year. This list [Updated 2021 October 29] gives the period of visibility and maximum brightness for comets that are predicted to be brighter than 12th magnitude 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.

Contributing observations

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 Project Alcock ) 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.cam.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 The Astronomer 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]. 

Images 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, Chris Wyatt 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 containing viruses or other junk. Please try and make clear that your message is legitimate, otherwise it may be deleted without being read. It is advisable to use your own name, rather than an alias, in the 'from' field and use an obvious, recent subject.


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.


Published by jds@ast.cam.ac.uk