Comet Chasing in February


Comet chasing is the visual observation of telescopic comets.

News


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 February


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

2P/Encke: An evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 9.7. Look for a 6.5' coma. It should brighten rapidly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 1-
40o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 1-
Equator Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 1-
30o S Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:40 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Not visible 1-

41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak: An evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Leo at magnitude 12.7. Look for a 4' coma. It should brighten rapidly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~02:10 High in moonlight at ~00:10 High at ~23:40 High at ~23:20 High at ~01:20 1-
40o N High at ~01:40 High in moonlight at ~00:10 High at ~23:40 High at ~23:20 High at ~00:30 1-
Equator High at ~00:40 High in moonlight at ~00:10 High at ~23:40 High at ~23:20 High at ~23:40 1-
30o S High at ~00:30 High in moonlight at ~00:10 High at ~23:30 Fairly high at ~23:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~23:00 1-

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova: A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Aquila at magnitude 7.0. Look for a 29.5' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Leo by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 High during morning twilight at ~05:30 High at ~01:50 High at ~01:10 High at ~01:20 1-
40o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 High during morning twilight at ~05:30 High at ~01:10 High at ~01:10 High at ~00:30 1-
Equator Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 High during morning twilight at ~05:10 High at ~00:10 High at ~01:10 High at ~00:10 1-
30o S Not visible Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Fairly high in the northern sky in moonlight at ~03:00 Fairly high at ~01:10 Fairly high at ~00:10 4-

C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS): A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 11.2. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should brighten by about 1.0 magnitudes, moving into Sagittarius by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 1-
40o N Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-
Equator High at ~05:00 High during morning twilight at ~05:10 High during morning twilight at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 1-
30o S High at ~04:00 High during morning twilight at ~04:30 High during morning twilight at ~04:30 High at ~04:20 High at ~04:30 1-

C/2015 V2 (Johnson): A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Bootes at magnitude 11.5. Look for a 3' coma. It should brighten by about 0.8 magnitudes, moving into Hercules by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~05:20 High in moonlight at ~05:10 High at ~01:50 High at ~04:40 High at ~04:20 1-
40o N High at ~05:20 High in moonlight at ~05:20 Fairly high at ~01:10 High at ~05:00 High at ~04:40 1-
Equator Fairly high at ~05:00 High during morning twilight at ~05:10 High in moonlight at ~05:00 High at ~04:50 High at ~04:50 1-
30o S Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 1-

73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann: A morning comet visible in an 8-inch (20 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 13.2. Look for a 40" coma. It should brighten by about 1.0 magnitudes, moving into Sagittarius by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Not visible Not visible 1-24
40o N Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 1-
Equator Fairly high at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-
30o S Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:10 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 1-

315P/LONEOS: A morning comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Coma Berenices at magnitude 13.7. Look for a 20" coma. It should remain constant, moving into Ursa Major by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~03:10 High in moonlight at ~03:00 High at ~01:50 High at ~01:40 High at ~01:20 1-
40o N High at ~03:10 High in moonlight at ~02:50 High at ~01:10 High at ~01:40 High at ~01:00 1-
Equator High at ~03:10 High in moonlight at ~02:50 High at ~00:10 High at ~01:40 High at ~01:00 1-
30o S Fairly high at ~03:10 Fairly high in the northern sky in moonlight at ~02:40 Low in the northern sky at ~23:30 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~01:40 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~01:00 1-

237P/LINEAR: A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Aquarius at magnitude 10.3. Look for a 2.5' coma. It should fade slowly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 26-26
40o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 21-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 27-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE): A southern hemisphere evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Microscopium at magnitude 9.8. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Sculptor by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
30o S Not visible Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:40 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 5-

C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Fornax at magnitude 14.3. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should brighten slowly. The best visibility is mid-month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility February 4 Visibility February 11 Visibility February 18 Visibility February 25 Visibility March 4 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Very low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Not visible Not visible 1-1, 12-18
40o N Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
Equator High during evening twilight at ~19:30 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 High at ~19:30 High at ~19:30 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
30o S High during evening twilight at ~20:20 High during evening twilight at ~20:10 High at ~20:10 High at ~20:00 High during evening twilight at ~19:50 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

February 1st

February 15th

February 28th

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova Aquila 7.0 18.3' 7.8 28.6' 11.2 11.5' 2017 January 8
2P/Encke Pisces 9.5 4.3' 7.2 5.0' 3.9 6.5' 2017 January 20
C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) Microscopium 9.9 2.3' 11.8 2.0' 13.2 1.8' 2016 December 29
93P/Lovas Pisces 10.0 27" 10.0 27" 10.1 26" 2016 December 31
237P/LINEAR Aquarius 10.3 2.6' 10.3 2.6' 10.4 2.6' 2016 November 17
C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS) Ophiuchus 11.2 2.5' 10.7 2.9' 10.3 3.3' 2017 February 2
C/2015 V2 (Johnson) Bootes 11.5 2.4' 11.1 2.6' 10.7 2.8' 2017 January 30
41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak Leo 12.6 2.2' 10.6 2.9' 8.7 3.9' 2017 January 30
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Ophiuchus 13.1 39" 12.6 41" 12.2 41" 2017 January 28
315P/LONEOS Coma Berenices 13.7 22" 13.6 23" 13.7 23" 2017 January 24
C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) Fornax 14.3 3.6' 14.2 3.5' 14.2 3.5' 2017 January 14
144P/Kushida Virgo 14.5 1.1' 14.8 1.2' 15.0 1.2' 2016 December 30
C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) Cetus 14.6 54" 14.7 52" 14.8 51" 2016 December 31
65P/Gunn Libra 15.3 1.1' 15.1 1.2' 14.9 1.3' 2017 January 4

*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