Comet Section        




The past months have been rather slow with only a single comet brighter than 10th magnitude. Barring a surprise discovery or outburst, August will see more of the same with no comets brighter than 9th magnitude. As bad as the summer has been for comet observers, this Fall will be worse as it is very possible that no comets will be brighter than 10th magnitude from September till late December when short-period 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková makes its 12th observed apparition.

Evening Comets

C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) [Perihelion on 2016-Apr-20 at 1.31 AU]

Comet PANSTARRS is now outbound and fading as its distance from the Sun (1.98 to 2.30 AU) and Earth (1.60 to 2.56 AU) increases. It is located low in the southwest as it moves through Centaurus (Aug 1-13) and Hydra (13-31). Low declination (-32° to -27°) and low elongation (96° to 64°) will make it a difficult object for far northern observers. It’s an “easier” target the further south one is located. Having peaked at 6th magnitude in June, X1 is now 9th magnitude and should fade to 10-11th magnitude by the end of August.

New Discoveries

Since the last Comet Section News posting, one comet was discovered.

The MASTER (Mobile Astronomical System of the Telescope-Robots) survey discovered its 3rd comet, C/2016 N4 (MASTER), on July 15. MASTER utilizes a world-wide network of small telescopes to scan the sky for transient objects (mainly supernovae and variable stars; and the occasional comet and near-Earth asteroid). C/2016 N4 was 16th magnitude when first seen by a team consisting of O. Gress, V. Lipunov, and eleven others with a 0.4-m f/2.5 telescope on the island of Tenerife. It is a dynamically old long-period comet with a period of ~1100 years. Perihelion occurs on Sept. 10, 2017 at 3.2 AU from the Sun. It will be ~14th magnitude at that time.

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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