Comet Section        




Evening Comets

C/2014 E2 (Jacques) [Perihelion on 2014-Jul-02 at 0.67 AU from the Sun]

It seems like forever since there’s been a bright comet observable in the evening. C/2014 E2 (Jacques) is a new discovery by Cristovao Jacques of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Discovered on March 13, it is the 2nd comet discovered by the Southern Observatory for Near Earth Asteroid Research (SONEAR) Observatory near Oliveira, Brazil. Since discovery the comet has rapidly brightened and recent estimates place it between magnitude 10 and 10.5 though occasionally a much brighter report has surfaced. The comet does appear to possess a rather large diffuse gaseous coma which may explain some of these discrepancies since the visibility of such comae is heavily influenced by sky conditions. Observers will be able to follow the comet into late May before it gets too close to the Sun for its 2014 July 2 perihelion at 0.67 AU from the Sun. By mid-July, the comet will be back, this time as a morning object. In late August it will approach to within 0.57 AU of Earth and may be as bright as magnitude 7-8.

The comet starts April rather far south at a declination of -30 deg in Antlia. It quickly moves to the northwest crossing Pyxis and ending the month in Monoceros. The comet should only brighten a little this month to ~9.5-10.0 (unless it really is much brighter than reported). At the start of the month, it will be located 1.82 AU from the Sun and 0.97 AU from Earth. By month’s end it will be 1.38 and 1.19 AU from the Sun and Earth, respectively.

Recent ALPO images and observations of C/2014 E2 (Jacques) can be found in the Comet Section Image Gallery. Finder charts can be found on the Comet Chasing website.

Middle of the Night Comets

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) [Perihelion on 2014-Aug-27 at 1.05 AU from the Sun]

Unlike Comet Jacques, C/2012 K1 has been known for almost two years having been discovered in May of 2012. Recent reports put it between magnitude 10.0 and 10.5. It should continue to slowly brighten as it moves from Corona Borealis, through Bootes and Canes Venatici and into Ursa Major. CCD images are revealing an interesting looking comet with a large 10′ gas coma, a faint but long gas tail inĀ  the usual anti-solar direction and a short but broad dust tail trailing the comet along its orbit. CCD imagers have also been noting some strange coma morphology such as persistent dust halo (see the images in the Comet Section Gallery for the development of this feature). The current prediction is for PANSTARRS to brighten up to 7th magnitude. One caveat though, this is another example of a dynamically new comet making its first pass through the inner Solar System (just like last year’s ISON) and these comets have a track record of underperforming when close to the Sun. Comet PANSTARRS starts the month 2.46 AU from the Sun and 1.81 AU from Earth and ends the month 2.11 AU from the Sun and 1.48 AU from Earth.

Finder charts for C/2012 K1 can be found on the Comet Chasing website.

Morning Comets

C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) [Perihelion on 2013-Dec-22 at 0.81 AU from the Sun]

Comet Lovejoy’s performance for most visual observers is coming to a close. Perhaps the most enjoyable comet of 2013, Lovejoy was a recent discovery and a surprise. Unlike the overhyped C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) and C/2012 S1 (ISON), Lovejoy exceeded expectations. The comet is now a faint diffuse fuzzy moving southwestward between Scutum and Serpens Cauda at magnitude 10-11. In full retreat from the Sun, the comet starts April 1.88 AU from the Sun and 1.53 AU from Earth and ends April 2.27 AU from the Sun and 1.46 AU from Earth.

Finder charts for C/2013 R1 can be found on the Comet Chasing website. Its ALPO image gallery can be found here.

C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) [Perihelion on 2014-Feb-21 at 1.60 AU from the Sun]

Now over a month past perihelion, C/2012 X1 remains the brightest comet in the sky around magnitude 8.0-8.5. The comet’s brightness should only fade a little as it moves through Aquarius. Its distance from the Sun will increase from 1.68 to 1.84 AU this month while its distance from Earth slightly decreases from 1.89 to 1.76 AU.

Finder charts for C/2013 R1 can be found on the Comet Chasing website. Its ALPO image gallery can be found here.

Fainter, but Noteworthy Comets

209P/LINEAR [Perihelion on 2014-May-06 at 0.97 AU from the Sun]

This year’s closest (predicted) comet approach to Earth will be by 209P/LINEAR as it passes within 0.06 AU in late May. The comet may also be the parent of a possible meteor shower on the night of May 24 UT as we encounter many of its older dust trails. Even though the comet will be very close, it is a relative runt of a comet and should only brighten up to magnitude 10-11. Still, CCD and large aperture visual observers should be able to enjoy the show as the comet rapidly moves across the sky in late May. This month, the comet remains near the Lynx-Camelopardalis border (near the radiant of its expected meteor shower, no coincidence here) as its distance from the Sun and Earth decrease from 1.09 to 0.97 AU and 0.49 to 0.27 AU, respectively.

Recent images can be found here.

Also, congratulations to ALPO member Rik Hill on the discovery of his 26th comet! Comet C/2014 F1 (Hill) is a faint long-period comet that probably won’t be any brighter than its current 19th magnitude.

As always, the Comet Section is happy to receive all comet observations, whether images, drawings or magnitude estimates.

- Carl Hergenrother (ALPO Comet Section Coordinator)

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