Objects in your sky: Comets

by Dominic Ford

Below is a list of the brightest few comets that are visible at present.

You are welcome to reproduce the text below for non-profit purposes, providing you credit In-The-Sky.org.

Comet name Mag Constellation Separation
from Sun
Trend Absolute magnitude
last updated
Comet name Mag Constellation Separation
from Sun
Trend Absolute magnitude
last updated
13P/Olbers6.2Lynx27°
Brightening
(peak at mag 6.1 on 2 Jul 2024)
6 Jun 2024
12P/Pons-Brooks7.3Canis Major56°
Fading – in outburst
6 Jun 2024
C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS)9.6Leo82°
Brightening
(peak at mag 0.5 on 5 Oct 2024)
6 Jun 2024
C/2023 V4 (Camarasa-Duszanowicz)10.7Lynx36°
Fading
(peak at mag 10.3 on 2 Jun 2024)
6 Jun 2024
46P/Wirtanen11.2Gemini13°
Fading
(peak at mag 10.5 on 19 May 2024)
3 Oct 2020
154P/Brewington11.4Aries34°
Fading
(peak at mag 11.3 on 20 Jun 2024)
8 Feb 2017
C/2021 S3 (PANSTARRS)11.8Cepheus90°
Fading
1 May 2024
37P/Forbes12.9Corvus105°
Brightening
(peak at mag 12.1 on 19 Sep 2024)
2 Oct 2018
C/2022 E2 (ATLAS)13.8Auriga19°
Brightening
(peak at mag 12.7 on 24 Nov 2024)
4 Apr 2024
479P/Elenin13.8Hydra103°
Fading
(peak at mag 12.0 on 5 May 2024)
6 Jun 2024
C/2021 G2 (ATLAS)13.9Corvus100°
Fading
4 Apr 2024
32P/ComasSola13.9Cancer31°
Fading
14 Sep 2017
C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS)14.0Taurus
Fading
2 Dec 2023
C/2020 V2 (ZTF)14.1Phoenix102°
Fading
30 Aug 2023
48P/Johnson14.3Libra139°
Brightening
31 Oct 2018
65P/Gunn15.2Virgo98°
Fading
1 Aug 2017
C/2020 K1 (PANSTARRS)15.3Columba60°
Fading
30 Aug 2023
C/2022 L2 (ATLAS)15.4Hydra73°
Fading
1 May 2024
C/2019 L3 (ATLAS)15.5Vela96°
Fading
31 Jul 2023
C/2019 U5 (PANSTARRS)15.6Puppis59°
Fading
3 Jul 2023
C/2019 T4 (ATLAS)16.2Hercules123°
Fading
3 Jan 2023
47P/Ashbrook-Jackson16.3Scorpius158°
Brightening
29 Feb 2012
110P/Hartley16.3Scorpius158°
Fading
(peak at mag 16.3 on 22 May 2024)
29 Feb 2012
69P/Taylor16.4Capricornus140°
Brightening
(peak at mag 16.1 on 8 Aug 2024)
Unknown
C/2021 X1 (Maury-Attard)16.4Pegasus100°
Brightening
(peak at mag 16.4 on 11 Jul 2024)
3 Feb 2023

The position of each comet is calculated from orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC).

The brightnesses of comets are estimated from magnitude parameters published by the BAA Comet Section, where these are available. These are computed from the observations they receive from amateur astronomers.

Comets are intrinsically highly unpredictable objects, since their brightness depends on the scattering of sunlight from dust particles in the comet's coma and tail. This dust is continually streaming away from the comet's nucleus, and its density at any particular time is governed by the rate of sublimation of the ice in the comet's nucleus, as it is heated by the Sun's rays. It also depends on the amount of dust that is mixed in with that ice. This is very difficult to predict in advance, and can be highly variable even between successive apparitions of the same comet.

In consequence, while the future positions of comets are usually known with a high degree of confidence, their future brightnesses are not. For most comets, we do not publish any magnitude estimates at all. For the few comets where we do make estimates, we generally prefer the BAA's magnitude parameters to those published by the Minor Planet Center, since they are typically updated more often.

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