Comet Chasing in May


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 May


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

C/2015 G2 (MASTER): A southern hemisphere evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Sculptor at magnitude 7.3. Look for a 10' coma. It should remain constant, moving into Monoceros by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Not visible Not visible Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 1-9, 15-
30o S Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:20 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~18:30 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~18:20 1-

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy): A far-northern evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Cassiopeia at magnitude 7.3. Look for a 7' coma. It should fade by about 0.9 magnitudes, moving into Ursa Minor by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N High in moonlight at ~01:00 High during morning twilight at ~00:00 High during evening twilight at ~00:00 High during morning twilight at ~00:10 High during evening twilight at ~23:50 1-
40o N Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:20 Fairly high at ~23:50 Fairly high at ~02:30 Fairly high at ~02:20 High during morning twilight at ~03:10 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

88P/Howell: A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Aquarius at magnitude 9.4. Look for a 3' coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Cetus by month's end. The best visibility is early in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:10 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:10 1-
Equator Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:40 Fairly high at ~04:40 Fairly high at ~04:40 1-
30o S Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:20 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:20 Fairly high at ~05:10 Fairly high at ~05:20 Fairly high at ~05:20 1-

C/2015 F3 (SWAN): An evening comet visible in a 12.5-inch (32 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Camelopardus at magnitude 11.7. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Ursa Major by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N High during evening twilight at ~22:30 High during evening twilight at ~23:40 High during evening twilight at ~23:50 High during morning twilight at ~00:10 High during evening twilight at ~23:20 1-
40o N High in moonlight at ~21:10 High at ~21:10 High at ~21:20 High at ~23:40 High during evening twilight at ~21:00 1-
Equator Not visible Low in the northern sky at ~20:00 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~19:50 Fairly high in moonlight at ~19:30 High in moonlight at ~19:20 2-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~19:40 Low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~19:20 22-

22P/Kopff: An evening comet visible in a 12.5-inch (32 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Virgo at magnitude 13.7. Look for a 40" coma. It should brighten by about 0.8 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N High during evening twilight at ~22:00 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~23:00 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~23:20 Fairly high in the western sky during morning twilight at ~00:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:50 1-
40o N High in moonlight at ~21:30 High at ~21:20 High at ~21:10 Fairly high at ~23:40 High during evening twilight at ~21:00 1-
Equator High in moonlight at ~21:40 High at ~21:20 High at ~20:50 High at ~22:50 High in moonlight at ~19:40 1-
30o S High in moonlight at ~21:40 High at ~21:20 High at ~20:50 High at ~22:20 High in moonlight at ~19:40 1-

C/2015 F5 (SWAN-Xingming): An evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Auriga at magnitude 11.5. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Lynx by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~21:50 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~23:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~23:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~23:20 Not visible 1-28
40o N High during evening twilight at ~20:20 Fairly high at ~20:50 Fairly high at ~21:00 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~21:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 1-
Equator Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~19:10 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~19:20 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 1-
30o S Not visible Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Not visible 5-27

C/2015 C2 (SWAN): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Andromeda at magnitude 12.2. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade by about 1.4 magnitudes, moving into Cassiopeia by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility May 2 Visibility May 9 Visibility May 16 Visibility May 23 Visibility May 30 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~02:10 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~00:30 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~00:10 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~00:10 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~00:10 1-
40o N Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~02:50 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~02:40 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:10 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 17-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

     

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

May 1st

May 15th

May 31st

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) Cassiopeia 7.3 7.0' 7.7 6.7' 8.2 6.4' 2015 May 1
C/2015 G2 (MASTER) Sculptor 7.3 8.8' 6.0 12.7' 7.4 6.8' 2015 April 29
88P/Howell Aquarius 9.4 3.1' 9.6 3.2' 9.8 3.2' 2015 April 28
19P/Borrelly Cetus 11.4 1.0' 11.2 1.0' 11.1 1.0' 2015 March 21
C/2015 F5 (SWAN-Xingming) Auriga 11.5 2.6' 13.5 1.8' 15.1 1.3' 2015 April 27
C/2015 F3 (SWAN) Camelopardus 11.7 2.0' 12.4 1.9' 13.4 1.6' 2015 April 27
C/2015 C2 (SWAN) Andromeda 12.2 2.0' 12.9 1.9' 13.6 1.8' 2015 April 23
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Aquarius 12.5 1.1' 12.0 1.2' 11.4 1.4' 2015 April 28
15P/Finlay Taurus 13.7? 42"? 14.1? 39"? 14.6? 36"? 2015 March 11
22P/Kopff Virgo 13.7? 42"? 13.3? 41"? 12.9? 40"? 2015 March 19
C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) Aquila 13.8? 1.3'? 13.7? 1.3'? 13.6? 1.4'? 2015 March 1
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Scorpius 14.6? 1.2'? 14.6? 1.2'? 14.5? 1.2'? 2015 February 26
C/2010 S1 (LINEAR) Sagittarius 14.6? 1.1'? 14.6? 1.1'? 14.6? 1.1'? 2015 March 7
C/2014 W11 (PANSTARRS) Cancer 14.7 25" 14.8 23" 15.0 22" 2015 April 13

*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

Chasing Comet ISON

Skyhound's Guide to Comets
Skyhound's Guide to Finding Comets
BAA Comet Section
Astronomical Headlines (IAU)
Cometography