2015 Comets to Look Out For

C/2013 US10 Catalina - 19/12/2014J.F. Soulier | www.aerith.net

18 April 2015

After the success of C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), the Christmas comet of 20141, which rapidly and unexpectedly brightened to become visible to the naked eye, we’re obviously keen to see more in 2015.

Probably the most famous current comet media celebrity is 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the home to the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander. It will reach its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015 but, even then, will not be particularly bright. I expect it reach about magnitude 9 at best and so won’t be visible in anything other than a reasonable telescope.

Comet C/2014 Q1 (PanSTARRS) will make a good show in the middle of the year but will be a Southern hemisphere object.

For us, in the Northern Hemisphere, we have C/2013 US10 (Catalina) to look forward to (see main photo). It will be easily visible in the morning skies in December 2015 / January 2016 and should reach magnitude of at least 4 (again naked eye visibility).

Sky position of C/2013 US10 Catalina over Christmas 2015Martin Veasey | Skytools 3

This chart shows how the comet will move against the background starfield during this period. You’ll see a particularly close approach to the star Arcturus on New Year’s Day. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the sky (excluding the Sun!) and so is very easy to spot. It and C/2013 US10 should make a splendid pair at just before dawn on New Year’s Day.

Sky view of C/2013 US10 Catalina at 7:00am 01/01/2016Martin Veasey | Stellarium
Binocular view of C/2013 US10 Catalina at 7:00am 01/01/2016Martin Veasey | Stellarium

I’ve included impressions of how that part of the sky should look on the day and the view through typical field binoculars.

My favourite website for comet technical information is Seiichi Yoshida’s homepage on www.aerith.net. It is a true labour of love, extremely comprehensive and detailed and yet entirely accessible. Do visit it.

Happy Hunting!

  1. So far as I know, there is no particular correlation between good comets and time of year

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