Comet Chasing in January


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 January


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

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy): An evening comet visible to the naked eye
This comet continued to brighten in January. On January 13 is was in Taurus at magnitude 3.9. Look for a 32' coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes, moving into Andromeda by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the southern sky in moonlight at ~21:50 Fairly high at ~20:40 High at ~19:30 High in moonlight at ~18:50 High during evening twilight at ~18:30 1-
40o N Fairly high in moonlight at ~21:50 High at ~20:40 High at ~19:30 High in moonlight at ~19:00 High during evening twilight at ~18:50 1-
Equator High in moonlight at ~21:50 High at ~20:40 High at ~19:40 High in moonlight at ~19:30 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
30o S High in moonlight at ~21:40 High at ~20:50 Fairly high at ~20:40 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 1-

15P/Finlay: An evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet had another outburst on January 16, brightening by 3 magnitudes. At that time it was in Aquarius at magnitude 7. Look for a 4' coma. It should fade by about 0.5 magnitudes, moving into Pisces by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~17:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 1-
40o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:00 Fairly high in the western sky at ~18:30 Fairly high in the western sky at ~18:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~18:40 1-
Equator Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
30o S Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 1-

C/2014 R1 (Borisov): A morning comet visible in a 6-inch (15 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Libra at magnitude 11.1. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.6 magnitudes, moving into Ophiuchus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:30 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 1-
40o N Fairly high during morning twilight at ~06:20 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~05:40 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~05:40 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~05:30 1-
Equator Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 High in moonlight at ~04:50 High at ~04:50 High at ~05:00 1-
30o S Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:00 1-

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring): A morning comet visible in an 8-inch (20 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 11.2. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.5 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:40 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:50 1-
40o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 Fairly high at ~05:30 1-
Equator Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 8-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 26-

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Sculptor at magnitude 11.1. Look for a 3' coma. It should fade by about 1.3 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 6-23
40o N Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:10 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 1-
Equator High during evening twilight at ~19:20 High at ~19:30 Fairly high at ~19:30 Fairly high in moonlight at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
30o S High during evening twilight at ~20:30 Fairly high at ~20:40 Fairly high at ~20:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 1-

C/2014 Q3 (Borisov): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Lyra at magnitude 11.7. Look for a 4.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes, moving into Cygnus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N High during evening twilight at ~17:40 Fairly high at ~18:10 Fairly high at ~05:50 Fairly high at ~05:50 High during morning twilight at ~05:50 1-
40o N Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~05:40 Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~05:40 Fairly high at ~05:30 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 30-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2013 US10 (Catalina): An evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Aquarius at magnitude 13.5. Look for a 1' coma. It should brighten slowly.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 3 Visibility January 10 Visibility January 17 Visibility January 24 Visibility January 31 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~17:20 Very low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~17:40 Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-4, 7-10
40o N Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:00 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Not visible 1-24
Equator Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky at ~19:30 Low 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 ~19:10 1-
30o S Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:40 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 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

January 1st

January 15th

January 31st

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) Lepus 4.9 30.5' 4.0 29.0' 54.7 19.6' 2015 January 13
15P/Finlay Capricornus 9.8 4.0' 9.9 4.1' 7.4 4.0' 2015 January 17
C/2014 R1 (Borisov) Libra 11.1 1.5' 11.4 1.5' 11.8 1.5' 2014 December 20
C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) Sculptor 11.2 3.1' 11.8 2.7' 12.4 2.3' 2014 December 30
C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) Ophiuchus 11.2 1.5' 11.4 1.5' 11.7 1.6' 2014 November 29
C/2014 Q3 (Borisov) Lyra 11.7 4.3' 12.0 3.9' 12.4 3.6' 2014 November 25
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Aquarius 13.5 1.0' 13.4 1.0' 13.2 1.0' 2014 December 19
32P/Comas Sola Leo 13.8 1.0' 13.8 1.1' 13.9 1.2' 2014 December 30
4P/Faye Sextans 14.3 42" 14.4 43" 14.7 43" 2014 November 30
108P/Ciffreo Auriga 14.7 38" 15.3 34" 16.1 29" 2014 November 30
C/2014 E2 (Jacques) Aquila 14.9 52" 15.2 49" 15.6 47" 2014 November 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

Chasing Comet ISON

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