Comet Section        

 
 

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

 
 

March 3, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for March 2020

2020 was not predicted to be an exciting year for comets. Luckily some recent discoveries are making this a more interesting year. March will definitely see two comets brighter than 10th magnitude [C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) and C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS)] and possibly a third [C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)]. All three are only visible from the northern hemisphere. This report also presents a number of fainter comets. While still faint in March, some of these may become bright enough for visual observers later in the year.

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/696741-alpo-comet-news-for-march-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

February 1, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for February 2020

Long period comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) continues to be well placed for northern observers in the evening sky at ~9th magnitude. Two recently announced discoveries, C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) and C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto), are fainter (10-11th magnitude) but within range of visual observers with large apertures.

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/692887-alpo-comet-news-for-february-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

January 1, 2020 – ALPO Comet News for January 2020

Happy New Year and welcome to 2020!

The brightest comet as 2020 begins is long-period comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS). It is possible that PANSTARRS will be the brightest comet of the year even though it is only predicted to peak around magnitude 8. This month, PANSTARRS is nicely placed for northern observers in the evening sky. CCD observers can observe interstellar visitor 2I/Borisov at 15-16th magnitude though it is likely to start fading. Another comet of interest to CCD imagers is short-period comet 289P/Blanpain which passes within 0.09 au of Earth this month. How bright this comet gets is uncertain as it is a faint, outburst prone object.

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/688998-alpo-comet-news-for-january-2020/). All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

December 3, 2019 – ALPO Comet News for December 2019

C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) is well placed in the evening sky for northern observers and should become brighter than 10th magnitude this month. CCD imagers are encouraged to image a number of fainter comets this month. In particular, the following are of interest. Interstellar visitor 2I/Borisov will be at its best around 15th magnitude. December and January will see short-period comet 289P/Blanpain pass within 0.09 au of the Earth. How bright this comet gets is uncertain as it is a faint, outburst prone object. Speaking of outburst prone comets, the British Astronomical Society invites CCD photometrists to join their effort to monitor the outbursts of 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. An edited version of this report is posted on the Cloudy Nights forum at (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/685850-alpo-comet-news-for-december-2019/). Everyone is invited to join the discussion at our Cloudy Nights forum.

- Carl Hergenrother

 
 

October 4, 2019 – ALPO Comet News for October 2019

I’m mixing things up a bit this month. The monthly ALPO Comet News are now be distributed as PDFs (link to this month’s PDF). A shorter version of this report is also posted on the Cloudy Nights forum. If you’d like to join in the discussion, I encourage you to visit our Cloudy Nights forum.

C/2018 W2 (Africano) starts the month around magnitude 8.5 though it will rapidly fade as the month progresses. C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) will still be 11th magnitude at the end of September but should replace Africano as the brightest observable comet. CCD observers can look forward to observing the first confirmed interstellar comet, 2I/2019 Q4 (Borisov). Other comets observable this month at brighter than 12th magnitude include 68P/Klemola, 260P/McNaught, and C/2018 N2 (ASASSN).

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