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
C/2021 A1 (Leonard)5.7Bootes63°
Brightening
(peak at mag 3.2 on 14 Dec 2021)
3 Dec 2021
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko8.6Cancer123°
Fading
(peak at mag 8.3 on 8 Nov 2021)
1 Apr 2018
19P/Borrelly9.6Sculptor86°
Brightening
(peak at mag 8.9 on 20 Jan 2022)
1 Apr 2018
C/2019 L3 (ATLAS)9.9Lynx138°
Brightening
(peak at mag 9.7 on 6 Jan 2022)
3 Dec 2021
104P/Kowal10.0Aquarius86°
Brightening
(peak at mag 9.0 on 19 Jan 2022)
4 Dec 2018
4P/Faye10.5Monoceros144°
Fading
(peak at mag 10.4 on 11 Nov 2021)
14 Sep 2017
8P/Tuttle11.4Lupus37°
Fading
3 Dec 2021
C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS)12.0Hercules40°
Brightening
3 Dec 2021
110P/Hartley12.1Cancer123°
Brightening
(peak at mag 11.8 on 12 Jan 2022)
29 Feb 2012
22P/Kopff12.1Libra16°
Brightening
(peak at mag 10.4 on 31 Mar 2022)
1 Apr 2018
108P/Ciffreo12.3Auriga141°
Fading
(peak at mag 12.0 on 24 Oct 2021)
14 Sep 2017
52P/Harrington-Abell12.3Virgo74°
Fading
(peak at mag 12.2 on 12 Nov 2021)
Unknown
9P/Tempel13.0Virgo36°
Brightening
(peak at mag 11.1 on 23 Mar 2022)
4 Dec 2018
116P/Wild13.0Leo105°
Brightening
(peak at mag 11.4 on 13 Mar 2022)
4 Dec 2018
C/2019 T4 (ATLAS)13.0Hydra66°
Brightening
(peak at mag 11.9 on 9 Apr 2022)
3 Nov 2021
15P/Finlay13.4Cancer120°
Fading
14 Sep 2017
132P/Helin-Roman-Alu13.9Cetus119°
Fading
(peak at mag 13.2 on 19 Oct 2021)
Unknown
P/2021 Q5 (ATLAS)14.2Leo83°
Fading
2 Oct 2021
C/2020 J1 (SONEAR)14.4Virgo40°
Fading
2 Oct 2021
106P/Schuster14.5Ursa Major119°
Fading
(peak at mag 14.4 on 6 Nov 2021)
18 Jan 2000
117P/Helin-Roman-Alu14.9Scorpius
Brightening
(peak at mag 12.8 on 2 Jul 2022)
16 Oct 2014
70P/Kojima15.1Leo88°
Brightening
(peak at mag 14.5 on 15 Feb 2022)
14 Sep 2017
81P/Wild15.1Aries158°
Brightening
4 Dec 2018
C/2020 T2 (Palomar)15.1Sagittarius28°
Fading
3 Nov 2021
10P/Tempel15.2Taurus161°
Fading
1 Apr 2018

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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