Comet Chasing in December


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 December


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

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy): An evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Puppis at magnitude 7.5. Look for a 12' coma. It should brighten rapidly, moving into Lepus by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility November 29 Visibility December 6 Visibility December 13 Visibility December 20 Visibility December 27 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the southern sky at ~23:10 21-
40o N Very low in the southern sky at ~03:00 Not visible Very low in the southern sky in moonlight at ~01:30 Low in the southern sky at ~00:20 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~23:10 1-
Equator High at ~03:00 High in moonlight at ~02:10 High at ~23:30 High at ~00:20 High at ~23:10 1-
30o S High at ~02:50 High in moonlight at ~02:00 High at ~23:40 High at ~00:20 High at ~23:10 1-

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Phoenix at magnitude 8.9. Look for a 6.5' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Sculptor by month's end. The best visibility is early in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility November 29 Visibility December 6 Visibility December 13 Visibility December 20 Visibility December 27 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Not visible Very low in the southern sky at ~19:00 Low in the southern sky at ~18:30 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 1-
Equator Fairly high in the southern sky at ~00:30 High in moonlight at ~20:20 High at ~19:30 High at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:20 1-
30o S High at ~00:30 High in moonlight at ~21:00 High at ~20:40 High at ~20:40 High during evening twilight at ~20:40 1-

C/2014 R1 (Borisov): A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Virgo at magnitude 10.4. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Libra by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility November 29 Visibility December 6 Visibility December 13 Visibility December 20 Visibility December 27 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:20 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Fairly high in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~06:10 1-
40o N Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 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 in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~05:40 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:40 1-
30o S Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:30 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:50 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:30 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:30 1-

C/2014 Q3 (Borisov): A northern hemisphere evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Draco at magnitude 10.8. Look for a 5.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.8 magnitudes, moving into Lyra by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility November 29 Visibility December 6 Visibility December 13 Visibility December 20 Visibility December 27 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high at ~05:40 High during evening twilight at ~17:50 High at ~18:00 High at ~18:00 Fairly high at ~06:10 1-
40o N Fairly high in the northern sky at ~05:20 High during evening twilight at ~18:00 High at ~18:20 Fairly high at ~18:20 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 1-
Equator Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Not visible Not visible 1-15
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 10.4. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility November 29 Visibility December 6 Visibility December 13 Visibility December 20 Visibility December 27 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:40 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:30 1-
40o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:50 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:40 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~17:40 Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~06:00 1-14, 23-
Equator Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-1
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

December 1st

December 15th

December 31st

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) Puppis 7.5 6.3' 6.5 8.5' 5.4 12.8' 2014 November 30
C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) Phoenix 9.0 7.5' 9.8 6.0' 10.7 4.8' 2014 November 22
C/2014 R1 (Borisov) Virgo 10.4 1.6' 10.6 1.6' 10.8 1.6' 2014 October 28
C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) Ophiuchus 10.5 1.6' 10.8 1.5' 11.1 1.5' 2014 November 29
C/2014 Q3 (Borisov) Draco 10.9 5.6' 11.2 5.0' 11.6 4.3' 2014 November 25
108P/Ciffreo Auriga 13.7 44" 14.1 42" 14.7 38" 2014 November 30
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Scorpius 13.8 24" 13.8 24" 13.8 24" 2014 October 3
C/2014 E2 (Jacques) Aquila 13.8 1.0' 14.3 57" 14.8 52" 2014 November 15
C/2010 S1 (LINEAR) Scutum 13.8? 51"? 13.9? 50"? 14.0? 50"? 2014 September 22
32P/Comas Sola Leo 13.9 45" 13.9 48" 13.9 51" 2014 November 30
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Pisces Austrinus 14.0 49" 13.9 48" 13.8 47" 2014 November 17
4P/Faye Sextans 14.0 38" 14.1 40" 14.3 42" 2014 November 30
C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) Libra 14.0 60" 14.7 58" 15.3 57" 2014 October 21
117P/Helin-Roman-Alu Capricornus 14.0 27" 14.2 25" 14.4 24" 2014 October 25
C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) Grus 14.1 46" 14.4 43" 14.7 40" 2014 October 18
C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) Scorpius 14.5? 33"? 14.4? 33"? 14.3? 34"? 2014 September 16
C/2014 N3 (NEOWISE) Cetus 14.5 29" 14.6 28" 14.7 26" 2014 October 28
284P/McNaught Aquarius 14.7 34" 15.0 32" 15.3 29" 2014 October 26
17P/Holmes Perseus 14.7? 43"? 14.9? 42"? 15.3? 39"? 2014 September 23
201P/LONEOS Aquarius 15.0 13" 14.9 12" 14.9 12" 2014 October 19

*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