© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.

2P/Encke at perigee

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Comets feed

Objects: 2P/Encke
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Comet 2P/Encke will make its closest approach to the Earth, at a distance of 0.61 AU.

The comet's perigee – closest approach to Earth – should not be confused with its perihelion, when it passes closest to the Sun. Comets become much brighter when they pass close to the Sun. At perihelion their surfaces are heated and produce clouds of dust which give rise to their tails and extended coma around the nucleus. As a result, most comets are brightest around the time of their perihelion, not their perigee.

From Ashburn the 2020 apparition of 2P/Encke will progress as follows:

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25 Jun 2020 – 2P/Encke at perihelion
30 Jul 2020 – 2P/Encke at perigee
09 Jul 2020CancerNot observable
11 Jul 2020CancerNot observable
13 Jul 2020LeoNot observable
15 Jul 2020SextansNot observable
17 Jul 2020SextansNot observable
19 Jul 2020SextansNot observable
21 Jul 2020SextansNot observable
23 Jul 2020SextansNot observable
25 Jul 2020CraterNot observable
27 Jul 2020CraterNot observable
29 Jul 2020CraterNot observable
31 Jul 2020CorvusNot observable
02 Aug 2020CorvusNot observable
04 Aug 2020CorvusNot observable
06 Aug 2020CorvusNot observable
08 Aug 2020HydraNot observable
10 Aug 2020HydraNot observable
12 Aug 2020HydraNot observable
14 Aug 2020HydraNot observable
16 Aug 2020HydraNot observable
18 Aug 2020HydraNot observable

A more detailed table of 2P/Encke's position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of 2P/Encke is available here.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of 2P/Encke over the course of its apparition, as calculated from the orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC). It is available for download, either on dark background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats, or on a light background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats. It was produced using StarCharter.

Comet brightnesses

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.

Based on the magnitude parameters published for this comet by the BAA Comet Section, we estimate that it may be around mag 9 at perigee. This estimate is based on observations that the BAA has received from amateur astronomers, assuming that its current level of activity will remain constant.

This comet is not expected to be visible to the naked eye, but might be visible through bird-watching binoculars.

The comet's position at perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet 2P/Encke 11h55m10s 15°54'S Crater 8.6

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 30 July 2020
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

10-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


10 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:47 12:05 19:23
Venus 02:57 10:06 17:15
Moon 17:17 22:11 02:59
Mars 23:33 05:47 12:00
Jupiter 19:19 00:05 04:51
Saturn 19:46 00:38 05:29
All times shown in EDT.


This event was automatically generated on the basis of orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) , and is updated whenever new elements become available. It was last updated on 15 Mar 2021.

Image credit

© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.






Color scheme