Comet Chasing in January


Comet chasing is the visual observation of telescopic comets.

News


    Read our article about observing comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, which is visible in binoculars

Comet Visibility in the Eyepiece

This page uses code developed for SkyTools 3 to predict the visibility of a comet in the eyepiece.  Predicting how much aperture is required to see a comet is a very complex task.  Have a look for yourself: a comparison of the predictions below (such as "visible in small telescopes") to the magnitude of each comet shows just how poor an indicator the magnitude alone really is.  When you read below that a particular aperture is required to see a comet you can have a reasonable degree of confidence that the comet can in fact be seen in the eyepiece.

Comet Synopses for January


Explanation of Comet Synopses and charts (read this if you have questions)

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova: An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Capricornus at magnitude 7.2. Look for a 6' coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes, moving into Aquila by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:30 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:30 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:30 Not visible Not visible 1-20, 30-
40o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:10 Not visible Not visible 1-20, 30-
Equator Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Not visible Not visible 1-19
30o S Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-15

C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE): A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 7.8. Look for a 4' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Microscopium by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:40 Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-12
40o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-13
Equator Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Not visible Not visible 1-17
30o S Not visible Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Not visible Not visible 10-20

2P/Encke: An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 12.1. Look for a 4' coma. It should brighten rapidly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high at ~18:00 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~17:50 Fairly high at ~18:20 Fairly high in the western sky at ~18:30 Fairly high in the western sky at ~18:40 1-
40o N High at ~18:30 High during evening twilight at ~18:20 Fairly high at ~18:40 Fairly high at ~18:40 Fairly high in the western sky at ~18:50 1-
Equator High at ~19:20 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 1-
30o S Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 1-

C/2015 V2 (Johnson): A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Bootes at magnitude 11.7. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should brighten by about 0.9 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~06:00 High at ~06:00 High during morning twilight at ~06:10 High at ~03:00 High at ~05:40 1-
40o N High at ~05:40 High at ~05:40 High during morning twilight at ~05:50 High in moonlight at ~05:40 High at ~05:30 1-
Equator Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in moonlight at ~04:50 Fairly high at ~04:50 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:10 Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 6-

C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS): A morning comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Libra at magnitude 13.8. Look for a 50" coma. It should brighten by about 0.9 magnitudes, moving into Ophiuchus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:30 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 1-
40o N Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 1-
Equator Fairly high at ~04:40 Fairly high at ~04:50 High during morning twilight at ~05:00 High during morning twilight at ~05:00 High at ~04:50 1-
30o S Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:50 Fairly high at ~04:00 1-

73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann: A morning comet visible in a 12.5-inch (32 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Libra at magnitude 14.1. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should brighten rapidly, moving into Ophiuchus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:30 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 1-
40o N Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~05:40 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~05:40 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 1-
Equator Fairly high at ~04:40 Fairly high at ~04:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high at ~05:00 1-
30o S Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 1-

C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch): An evening comet visible in an 18-inch (46 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Cetus at magnitude 13.6. Look for a 55" coma. It should fade slowly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high at ~18:20 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~18:00 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~18:20 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~18:30 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~18:40 1-
40o N High at ~18:30 High during evening twilight at ~18:20 High at ~18:40 Fairly high at ~18:50 Fairly high at ~18:50 1-
Equator High at ~19:30 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 High at ~19:30 High at ~19:30 High at ~19:30 1-
30o S High at ~20:40 High during evening twilight at ~20:30 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:40 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 1-

237P/LINEAR: A northern hemisphere evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Sagittarius at magnitude 10.1. Look for a 3' coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Aquarius by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:10 Not visible Not visible 1-16
40o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:40 Not visible Not visible 1-15
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-3
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

144P/Kushida: A morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Virgo at magnitude 13.7. Look for a 1' coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the southern sky at ~06:00 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~06:00 Fairly high in the southern sky in moonlight at ~06:00 Low in the southern sky in moonlight at ~05:30 Low in the southern sky at ~05:10 1-
40o N Fairly high at ~05:40 Fairly high at ~05:40 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in moonlight at ~05:30 Fairly high at ~05:10 1-
Equator High at ~04:40 High at ~04:40 High during morning twilight at ~05:00 High in moonlight at ~04:50 High at ~04:50 1-
30o S High at ~03:30 High at ~03:30 High during morning twilight at ~03:50 High in moonlight at ~03:50 High at ~03:50 1-

C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Fornax at magnitude 14.4. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should brighten slowly. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility December 31 Visibility January 7 Visibility January 14 Visibility January 21 Visibility January 28 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 28-
40o N Low in the southern sky at ~20:10 Low in the southern sky in moonlight at ~19:40 Low in the southern sky at ~19:10 Low in the southern sky at ~18:50 Low in the southern sky at ~18:50 1-
Equator High at ~20:10 High in moonlight at ~19:30 High at ~19:40 High at ~19:40 High at ~19:40 1-
30o S High at ~20:50 Low in the western sky at ~01:20 High at ~20:40 High at ~20:40 High at ~20:30 1-

Summary Data for This Month's Telescopic Comets


Comets brighter than 15th magnitude.  This table is updated as necessary.  The last column indicates the date of the last observation used to compute these values.  The constellation listed is where the comet was on the first of the month.
Comet Constellation

January 1st

January 15th

January 31st

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova Capricornus 7.1 6.1' 7.3 9.9' 7.9 23.4' 2017 January 2
C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) Ophiuchus 7.7 3.9' 6.5 3.0' 9.6 2.4' 2016 December 29
237P/LINEAR* Sagittarius 10.1 2.7' 10.2 2.7' 10.3 2.6' 2016 November 17
C/2015 V2 (Johnson) Bootes 11.7 1.3' 11.3 1.4' 10.9 1.5' 2016 December 30
2P/Encke Pisces 12.0 3.5' 11.0 3.6' 9.2 3.9' 2017 January 2
C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) Cetus 13.6 54" 13.7 51" 13.8 49" 2016 November 22
144P/Kushida Virgo 13.8 1.0' 14.1 1.1' 14.4 1.1' 2016 December 30
C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS) Libra 13.8 39" 13.4 44" 12.9 50" 2016 December 30
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Libra 14.0 1.2' 13.3 1.3' 12.4 1.5' 2016 December 6
C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) Fornax 14.4 3.6' 14.3 3.6' 14.2 3.5' 2016 December 25
C/2015 TQ209 (LINEAR) Libra 14.5 22" 14.7 22" 15.0 22" 2016 January 30
43P/Wolf-Harrington Corvus 14.8 31" 15.0 33" 15.2 34" 2016 December 30
226P/Pigott-LINEAR-Kowalski Cassiopeia 14.9 31" 15.3 27" 15.7 24" 2016 December 30

*In solar conjunction and generally not visible

For the latest news and comet observations see the ICQ/CBAT/MPC: Recent Comet Magnitude Estimates page.  The Astronomical Headlines page of the IAU is also a good source of information, particularly for recent discoveries.

For general information about comets see Gary W. Kronk's Cometography 

Join the Comet Chasing discussion group 

Further reading: see Comet Chasing, Sky & Telescope, April 2005, pg. 83.

Make your own custom charts for your location and telescope/binoculars: software for comet observing
 

Links

Skyhound's Guide to Comets
Skyhound's Guide to Finding Comets
BAA Comet Section
Weekly Information About Bright Comets
Cometography