Bright Comets of 2017

With the exception of US10 Catalina at the beginning of the year, 2016 was a bit of a damp squid for bright comets when compared to recent years. So what comets are in store for 2017? Are there any more naked eye comets on the horizon? Well, there are a few short period comets in 2017 that reach within binocular viewing brightness. One of which should reach just within naked eye visibility. There is also a hyperbolic comet but not reaching any significant brightness to write home about.

  


Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova

45pHonda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova

This short period comet is expected to reach closest approach in 2017 at a distance of 0.08au. The comet is brightened rapidly throughout November 2016, however was only visible to southern sky observers. Northern observers had a small window of opportunity to observe it at the end of 2016 as perihelion approached. The comet then re-emerged in the northern hemisphere in February. Imaged above on its last closest approach in 2011, this comet has had a few close encounters with Jupiter in the past making some noticeable changes to the comet’s orbit. Throughout January and February 2017, 45p was expected to reach magnitude 6 after it re-emerged from conjunction, however sightings disappointed as it was revealed that it had lost its tail and appeared quite faint and diffuse at magnitude 8. The comet will now cover plenty of ground as it moves rapidly through Capricornus, Aquilla, Hercules, Corona Borealis, Bootes, Coma Berenices and Leo where it will remain throughout March. By this time it will have faded to around magnitude 10 unless anything unexpected happens. Read more…

 


2P/Encke

Gracing our skies every 3.3 years, this regular visitor was the first periodic comet discovered after Halley’s Comet. With a nucleus of 4.8km, the comet reaches perihelion on 10 March, 2017 and reaches a fairly respectable brightness of magnitude 7.  Positioned in Pisces throughout February for northern observers, the comet will quickly brighten making it visible in binoculars by mid month. The comet will then move rapidly in to Aquarius and sink in to northern dusk by early March. Read more..

 


41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak

Another short period comet with more promising prospects than the comets above, is expected to reach magnitude 5 in the Spring of 2017 bringing it within naked eye visibility. With a nucleus of an estimated 1.4 kilometers in diameter and a reputation for flaring, this comet reaches perihelion at the end of March. Well placed for northern sky observers from January until June, this comet will be a treat for binocular observers from March and may enter the realm of naked eye visibility in dark skies. A notable photographic opportunity arises at the end of April when the comet passes within 5 degrees of Globular Cluster, M92 . Read More…


C/2015 V2 (Johnson)

Discovered on 3 November 2015 by Jess Johnson of the Catalina Sky Survey,  C/2015 V2 (Johnson) is a hyperbolic comet. Expected to reach Perihelion in June 2017, the comet will be well placed for northern hemisphere observers in the months leading to this. The comet is a morning object at the beginning of the year residing at the top of Bootes then by mid-February moves in to Hercules becoming a late evening object visible for the rest of the night. By May, the comet should reach magnitude 6 which is well within binocular viewing brightness before it plummets south becoming un-viewable to northern sky observers by July. Southern observers will be able to continue observing the object until the end of 2017. Read More…