Comet Chasing in February


Comet chasing is the visual observation of telescopic comets.

News


Comet Visibility in the Eyepiece

This page uses code developed for SkyTools 3 to predict the visibility of a comet in the eyepiece.  Predicting how much aperture is required to see a comet is a very complex task.  Have a look for yourself: a comparison of the predictions below (such as "visible in small telescopes") to the magnitude of each comet shows just how poor an indicator the magnitude alone really is.  When you read below that a particular aperture is required to see a comet you can have a reasonable degree of confidence that the comet can in fact be seen in the eyepiece.

Comet Synopses for February


Explanation of Comet Synopses and charts (read this if you have questions)

C/2013 US10 (Catalina): A northern hemisphere evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Camelopardus at magnitude 6.5. Look for a 15" coma. It should fade rapidly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 30 Visibility February 6 Visibility February 13 Visibility February 20 Visibility February 27 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~00:00 High at ~20:20 High at ~23:50 High during evening twilight at ~19:10 High at ~19:50 1-
40o N High at ~23:40 High at ~20:20 High at ~23:20 High during evening twilight at ~19:10 High at ~19:30 1-
Equator Very low in the northern sky at ~23:10 Low in the northern sky at ~20:20 Fairly high in the northern sky in moonlight at ~19:30 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~19:30 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Pegasus at magnitude 8.7. Look for a 5' coma. It should brighten slowly, moving into Pisces by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 30 Visibility February 6 Visibility February 13 Visibility February 20 Visibility February 27 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~18:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 1-
40o N Fairly high at ~18:50 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 1-
Equator Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Not visible 1-
30o S Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-14, 16-16

C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Draco at magnitude 9.1. Look for a 2.5' coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Ursa Minor by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 30 Visibility February 6 Visibility February 13 Visibility February 20 Visibility February 27 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high at ~00:00 High at ~05:20 High at ~05:10 High in moonlight at ~03:00 High at ~22:50 1-
40o N Fairly high in the northern sky at ~23:40 High at ~05:20 High at ~05:10 High during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high at ~22:20 1-
Equator Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Low in the northern sky at ~05:00 Low in the northern sky at ~05:00 Low in the northern sky at ~05:00 Low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~04:40 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in a 16-inch (41 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Draco at magnitude 13.2. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should remain constant, moving into Cepheus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 30 Visibility February 6 Visibility February 13 Visibility February 20 Visibility February 27 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~18:40 High at ~05:30 High at ~05:20 High during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high at ~19:40 1-
40o N Fairly high in the northern sky at ~18:50 Fairly high at ~05:30 Fairly high at ~05:20 High during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 11-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

81P/Wild: An evening comet visible in a 16-inch (41 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Taurus at magnitude 13.8. Look for a 55" coma. It should brighten slowly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 30 Visibility February 6 Visibility February 13 Visibility February 20 Visibility February 27 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~20:20 High at ~20:00 High in moonlight at ~19:20 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 High at ~19:40 1-
40o N High at ~20:30 High at ~20:00 High in moonlight at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:10 High at ~19:30 1-
Equator High at ~20:30 High at ~20:00 High in moonlight at ~19:40 High during evening twilight at ~19:30 High at ~19:30 1-
30o S High at ~20:40 Fairly high at ~20:30 Fairly high in moonlight at ~20:20 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:00 Fairly high at ~20:00 1-

116P/Wild: A morning comet visible in an 18-inch (46 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Libra at magnitude 12.6. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should brighten slowly. The best visibility is mid-month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 30 Visibility February 6 Visibility February 13 Visibility February 20 Visibility February 27 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Low in the southern sky at ~05:30 Low in the southern sky at ~05:20 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 1-
40o N Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:40 Fairly high at ~05:20 Fairly high at ~05:20 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 1-
Equator High during morning twilight at ~05:00 High at ~04:50 High at ~04:50 High at ~05:00 High during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-
30o S High during morning twilight at ~04:10 High at ~04:00 High at ~04:10 High during morning twilight at ~04:30 High during morning twilight at ~04:30 1-

Summary Data for This Month's Telescopic Comets


Here's a list of the comets brighter than 15th magnitude.  This table is updated as necessary.  The last column indicates the date of the last observation used to compute these values.  The constellation listed is where the comet was on the first of the month.
Comet Constellation

February 1st

February 15th

February 29th

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Camelopardus 6.5 14" 7.7 10" 8.8 7" 2016 February 1
C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) Pegasus 8.7 4.9' 8.7 4.6' 8.6 4.5' 2016 January 26
C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS) Draco 9.1 2.6' 9.2 2.6' 9.3 2.6' 2016 January 26
22P/Kopff* Aquarius 11.7 1.8' 12.2 1.8' 12.7 1.7' 2015 November 30
10P/Tempel Aquarius 12.9 1.8' 13.5 1.7' 14.1 1.6' 2016 January 3
C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS) Draco 13.2 1.6' 13.2 1.5' 13.2 1.5' 2016 January 30
116P/Wild Libra 13.3 48" 13.2 51" 13.1 56" 2016 January 12
81P/Wild Taurus 13.8 1.0' 13.6 59" 13.5 56" 2016 January 30
C/2015 X8 (NEOWISE) Perseus 14.2 50" 15.1 38" 15.9 31" 2016 January 10

*In solar conjunction and generally not visible

For the latest news and comet observations see the ICQ/CBAT/MPC: Recent Comet Magnitude Estimates page.  The Astronomical Headlines page of the IAU is also a good source of information, particularly for recent discoveries.

For general information about comets see Gary W. Kronk's Cometography 

Join the Comet Chasing discussion group 

Further reading: see Comet Chasing, Sky & Telescope, April 2005, pg. 83.

Make your own custom charts for your location and telescope/binoculars: software for comet observing
 

Links

Skyhound's Guide to Comets
Skyhound's Guide to Finding Comets
BAA Comet Section
Weekly Information About Bright Comets
Cometography