COMET HIGHLIGHTS for FEBRUARY 2013
C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) [T = 2013 Dec 22, q = 0.81 AU]
Comet Lovejoy is now over a month past perihelion. It was quite the comet last December when it peaked around magnitude 4.5, sporting a multi-degree long tail and displaying a number of strong near-nuclear jets. Now receding from both Earth and Sun, the comet has faded to magnitude 7.5. It starts the month 1.10 AU from the Sun and 1.48 AU from Earth. By the end of the month, the comet will be 1.46 AU from the Sun and 1.59 AU from Earth. The comet should continue to fade from magnitude 7.5 to around 8.0-8.5 during the course of the month. As has been true for its entire observable apparition, Lovejoy remains a morning object.
C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) [T = 2014 Feb 21, q = 1.60 AU]
Comet Linear was discovered back in December of 2012. Never expected to become a bright comet, it underwent a major outburst in October brightening from 14th to 7th magnitude. It is now between magnitude 8.5 and 9.0. Since its distance from the Sun and Earth will not change much during February (around 1.60 AU from the Sun and 2.05 AU from the Earth), it should not brighten or fade much. Like Lovejoy, it is also a morning object.
Some Fainter Comets of Interest
C/2012 K1 (LINEAR) is currently around magnitude 12-13. Located at ~3 AU from the Sun, the comet will get much closer to the Sun at its August 27 perihelion (q = 1.05 AU). At that time it will be an easy object for small telescope/binocular observers at 5th-7th magnitude. Similar to Comet ISON, K1 is a dynamically new comet and is already showing signs of a slow-down in its brightening trend. It will be very interesting to watch its brightness development. The comet is a morning object located near the Ophiuchus/Hercules border.
290P/Jager is a short-period comet discovered in 1998 by renowned comet imager Michael Jager. At the time of discovery the comet was on its first trip into the inner Solar System after a close-approach to Saturn (0.016 AU) decreased its perihelion distance from 8.47 to 2.13 AU. This year Jager will pass perihelion on March 12 at 2.16 AU from the Sun. Recent observations place the comet at 12-13th magnitude. It is an evening object this month located near the Gemini/Auriga border.
The Section is always collecting observations (both visual and CCD) and magnitude estimates for all comets. An image gallery has been set up and now contains 301 images of 57 comets.
- Carl Hergenrother (Comet Section Acting Co-Coordinator)