Comet Section        

 
 

January 3, 2021 – ALPO Comet News for January 2021

While many of us are happy to see the end of 2020, it was actually quite a good year for comet observing. No less than 13 comets were observed at magnitude 10.0 or brighter. The comet highlight of the year was C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) which was the most impressive comet for northern hemisphere observers since C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) in 1997.

Though it is unlikely 2021 will deliver another NEOWISE-type event, the year is predicted to see a large number of reasonably bright short-period comets, though most won’t be bright till the 2nd half of the year. As a result, 2021 will start off slow with no comets expected to be brighter than 10th magnitude in January. We may need to wait till February or March when long-period comet C/2020 R4 (ATLAS) could become bright enough for small aperture observers.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum. All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

December 3, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for December 2020

November turned out to be a great month for comet observers with 101 magnitude estimates of 9 comets and 44 images of 10 comets being submitted to the Comets Section. C/2020 S3 (Erasmus) led the pack as it brightened to 6th magnitude. C/2020 M3 (ATLAS), 156P/Russell-LINEAR and 88P/Howell were also visible between 7th and 10th magnitude. This month, Erasmus will be too close to the Sun for ground-based observers. As is fitting for 2020, we will be able to follow Erasmus virtually in images taken by the SOHO and STEREO spacecraft. C/2020 M3, 156P, and 88P will be fading but still bright enough for small aperture observers. For those willing to try fainter objects, 11P/Tempel-Swift-LINEAR, 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, 141P/Machholz, 398P/Boattini, and disintegrating C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) will be between 10th and 14th magnitude.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum. All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

November 1, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for November 2020

Three comets are expected to be brighter than 10th magnitude this month, 88P in the evening sky and C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) and C/2020 S3 (Erasmus) in the morning. 88P/Howell should fade from 9th to 10th magnitude this month. Long-period comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) will spend most of the month around 7-8th magnitude. Recent discovery, C/2020 S3 (Erasmus) starts the month around 9th magnitude and could be between 6th and 7th magnitude before moving too close to the Sun for most observers towards the latter half of the month. A couple of other comets may be observable  hat are between 10th and 12th magnitude, including 156P/Russell-LINEAR and C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE).

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum. All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

October 7, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for October 2020

Two comets are expected to be good targets for small aperture observers: fading 88P/Howell (8th to 9th magnitude) and brightening C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) (9th to 8th magnitude). C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE), not to be confused with this year’s brightest comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), could brighten above 10th magnitude but will only be visible to southern hemisphere observers at low elevations during the first week of the month. Assuming it survives perihelion, which may be unlikely as the comet is intrinsically faint and dynamically new, C/2020 P1 could be visible to northern observers as a faint visual object during the last week of the month. Among fainter comets to watch (10-12th mag) are departing comets C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) and C/2020 Q1 (Borisov) and inbound comet C/2020 S3 (Erasmus).

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/733309-alpo-comet-news-for-october-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

September 1, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for September 2020

The bright comets of the past few months are now fading. While C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) starts the month around 9th magnitude, both C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) and C/2019 U6 (Lemmon) have faded to 11-12th magnitude. Taking their place are short-period comet 88P/Howell, which comes to perihelion this month and should be 8th magnitude, and two newly discovered long-period comets, C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) and C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE). The new ATLAS comet could be a nice small telescope object over the next few months. The latest NEOWISE comet is a little more uncertain and may only become bright enough for small aperture observers in late September and early October from the southern hemisphere.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/726880-alpo-comet-news-for-september-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

August 5, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for August 2020

C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was the celestial highlight of July and likely the best comet of 2020. NEOWISE is now rapidly fading but still a visually and photographically impressive object well placed for observation in the evening sky. August will see it fade from around 6th to 9th magnitude. By the end of August, short-period comet 88P/Howell will challenge NEOWISE’s place as the “brightest comet in the sky”. 2P/Encke, C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS), and C/2019 U6 (Lemmon) start the month around 9-10th magnitude but fade throughout the month.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/721655-alpo-comet-news-for-august-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

July 3, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for July 2020

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is ~1st magnitude in the morning sky!

First there was C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), the “Great Comet” that couldn’t hold itself together. Then along came C/2020 F8 (SWAN), the bright consolation prize that decided to star in its own break-up act. After the back-to-back let downs of ATLAS and SWAN, C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is at perihelion and currently as bright as 1st magnitude. Though it isn’t the best placed object for observing and will fade as the month progresses, NEOWISE should be a memorable comet and perhaps the best since C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), the Really Good Comet of 2013.

In addition to NEOWISE, there are a number of fainter comets within reach of small apertures. In the evening we have C/2019 U6 (Lemmon) at 6th-7th magnitude and 88P/Howell and C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) at 9th magnitude. Frequent inner solar system visitor 2P/Encke begins July at 7th-8th magnitude though only for southern hemisphere observers.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/715659-alpo-comet-news-for-july-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

June 3, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for June 2020

2020 has been an up and down year for comet watching. It has already seen two comets, touted as the next big thing, fall apart well before perihelion. While observations of the remains of C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) and C/2020 F8 (SWAN) are possible this month, most of our attention turns to other brightening comets. C/2019 U6 (Lemmon) may peak around magnitude 6 at the end of June and C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) should brighten to around magnitude 7 before it is lost in the Sun’s glare. Both of those comets are visible only from the southern hemisphere. Northern observers still have fading C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) at around 8-9th magnitude.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/710865-alpo-comet-news-for-june-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

May 1, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for May 2020

Most of us comet watchers may all be in lockdown, but the heavens are giving us plenty to watch. Recent discoveries have produced a number of reasonably bright comets to observe. As many as 6 comets should be brighter than 10th magnitude this May. The brightest is C/2020 F8 (SWAN). After a recent outburst at the end of April, SWAN is currently around 5th magnitude and a borderline naked eye object for observers in the southern hemisphere. Southern observers will also be able to watch C/2019 U6 (Lemmon) brighten to 7th magnitude and C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) brighten to 8th magnitude. Northern observers have their own collection of bright objects to observe including C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS), C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS), and the disintegrating remains of C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS). If it remains a bright object, C/2020 F8 (SWAN) may also be visible, with difficulty, from the northern hemisphere later in the month. As if the above weren’t interesting enough, a number of slightly fainter but still interesting comets can be observed just fainter than 10th magnitude.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. Note with all of the recent comet activity, this report is a bit large in size. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/705417-alpo-comet-news-for-may-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

April 1, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for April 2020

Much has changed since over the past month, not only with the state of the world, but with comets. C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) has asserted itself as the comet of the moment. Currently between 7th and 8th magnitude as April begins, the comet may become a borderline naked eye object under dark skies by the end of the month. It will be interesting to watch how it develops.

C/2019 Y4 isn’t the only object of interest. Both C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) and C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) are brighter than 10th magnitude and CCD and large aperture visual observers are encouraged to watch fainter comets 88P/Howell, 210P/Christensen, 249P/LINEAR, and C/2019 U6 (Lemmon).

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/700215-alpo-comet-news-for-april-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

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