Comet Chasing in April


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 April


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

252P/LINEAR: A morning comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Serpens Cauda at magnitude 5.0. Look for a 60' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Ophiuchus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~03:10 Fairly high at ~02:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:20 High during morning twilight at ~02:30 High during morning twilight at ~01:20 1-
40o N Fairly high at ~03:00 High at ~03:40 High at ~03:30 High during morning twilight at ~03:30 High at ~01:40 1-
Equator High at ~02:20 High at ~04:20 High at ~03:50 High in moonlight at ~03:30 High at ~01:00 1-
30o S High in moonlight at ~04:40 High at ~04:20 High at ~03:50 High in moonlight at ~03:20 High at ~00:30 1-

C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS): A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 8.2. Look for a 8.5' coma. It should brighten by about 0.6 magnitudes by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 27-
40o N Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:10 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:50 1-
Equator Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 1-
30o S Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 1-

C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Ursa Major at magnitude 9.7. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~23:00 High at ~22:20 High during evening twilight at ~21:40 High in moonlight at ~22:40 High at ~22:40 1-
40o N High at ~23:00 High at ~22:20 Fairly high at ~03:00 High during evening twilight at ~20:00 High at ~21:00 1-
Equator Fairly high in the northern sky at ~23:00 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~22:20 Fairly high in moonlight at ~21:30 Fairly high at ~19:10 High at ~20:30 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~21:00 Low in the northern sky at ~20:30 13-

C/2013 US10 (Catalina): A northern hemisphere evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Perseus at magnitude 10.1. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade by about 1.2 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~21:00 Fairly high at ~21:20 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~21:10 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~21:20 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:20 1-
40o N High at ~20:00 Fairly high at ~20:10 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:10 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:40 1-
Equator Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

9P/Tempel: An evening comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Coma Berenices at magnitude 14.0. Look for a 30" coma. It should brighten by about 0.8 magnitudes, moving into Leo by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~23:10 High at ~22:40 High in moonlight at ~22:00 High at ~22:10 High during evening twilight at ~22:30 1-
40o N High at ~23:10 High at ~22:40 Fairly high in the western sky at ~03:00 High during evening twilight at ~20:00 High at ~21:10 1-
Equator High at ~23:10 High at ~22:40 Fairly high in the western sky at ~02:30 High during evening twilight at ~19:10 High at ~21:00 1-
30o S Fairly high at ~23:10 Fairly high at ~22:40 Low in the western sky at ~02:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 High at ~21:00 1-

C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Draco at magnitude 13.1. Look for a 30" coma. It should remain constant.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~03:00 High at ~02:40 High in moonlight at ~01:40 High during morning twilight at ~02:20 High at ~01:10 1-
40o N High at ~03:00 High at ~03:50 High at ~03:30 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 High at ~01:40 1-
Equator Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Low in the northern sky at ~04:50 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~04:30 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

116P/Wild: A morning comet visible in a 14-inch (36 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Scorpius at magnitude 12.9. Look for a 1' coma. It should remain constant. The best visibility is early in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the southern sky at ~03:10 Low in the southern sky at ~02:40 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Low in the southern sky in moonlight at ~01:50 Low in the southern sky at ~01:10 1-
40o N Fairly high in the southern sky at ~03:00 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~02:50 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~03:00 Fairly high in the southern sky in moonlight at ~01:50 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~01:10 1-
Equator High at ~02:20 High at ~02:50 High at ~02:30 High in moonlight at ~01:40 High at ~01:00 1-
30o S High at ~01:40 High at ~02:50 High at ~02:20 High in moonlight at ~01:40 High at ~00:30 1-

333P/LINEAR: An evening comet visible in a 16-inch (41 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Perseus at magnitude 13.0. Look for a 50" coma. It should fade by about 0.8 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:00 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~21:10 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:00 1-
40o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 1-
Equator Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Not visible Not visible 1-18
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-1

81P/Wild: An evening comet visible in an 18-inch (46 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Orion at magnitude 12.6. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should brighten slowly, moving into Gemini by month's end.  FINDER CHART (note: you are better off using software to plot the position of this comet than to use this finder chart because it is both faint and moving quickly).
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:50 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~21:10 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~21:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:00 1-
40o N High at ~20:00 High at ~20:10 High during evening twilight at ~20:00 High during evening twilight at ~20:00 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:40 1-
Equator High at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:20 High during evening twilight at ~19:10 High at ~19:10 High at ~19:10 1-
30o S Fairly high in the northern sky at ~19:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~19:10 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~18:50 1-

104P/Kowal: An evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Aries at magnitude 12.7. Look for a 50" coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Taurus by month's end.  FINDER CHART (note: you are better off using software to plot the position of this comet than to use this finder chart because it is both faint and moving quickly).
Latitude Visibility April 2 Visibility April 9 Visibility April 16 Visibility April 23 Visibility April 30 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:20 1-
40o N Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 1-
Equator Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
30o S Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 1-

Summary Data for This Month's Telescopic Comets


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

April 1st

April 15th

April 30th

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
252P/LINEAR Serpens Cauda 5.0 70.0' 6.8 33.8' 8.2 21.4' 2016 April 1
C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) Pisces 8.2? 7'? 7.9? 7'? 7.6? 8.5'? 2016 February 9
C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS) Ursa Major 9.7 2.0' 10.0 1.9' 10.3 1.7' 2016 March 28
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Perseus 10.1 2.0' 10.8 1.7' 11.3 1.5' 2016 March 23
81P/Wild Orion 12.2 1.1' 12.1 1.0' 11.9 60" 2016 March 8
104P/Kowal Aries 12.7 50" 12.8 50" 13.0 48" 2016 March 31
333P/LINEAR Perseus 13.0 49" 13.4 42" 13.8 37" 2016 March 31
C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS) Draco 13.1 30" 13.1 30" 13.1 31" 2016 March 10
116P/Wild Scorpius 13.3 1.2' 13.3 1.2' 13.3 1.3' 2016 March 3
22P/Kopff Pisces 14? ? 14? ? 14? ? 2015 November 30
9P/Tempel Coma Berenices 14.0 32" 13.5 32" 13.1 32" 2016 March 31
C/2014 W11 (PANSTARRS) Centaurus 14.2 1.1' 14.3 1.1' 14.4 1.1' 2016 February 11
77P/Longmore Virgo 14.3 1.1' 14.3 1.1' 14.3 1.1' 2016 March 10
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Sagittarius 14.7 1.0' 14.6 1.1' 14.5 1.1' 2016 March 14
53P/Van Biesbroeck Sagittarius 15.2 32" 15.0 35" 14.9 37" 2016 March 15

*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