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88P/Howell reaches its brightest

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Comets feed

Objects: 88P/Howell
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The sky at

Comet 88P/Howell is forecast to reach its brightest. It will lie at a distance of 1.36 AU from the Sun, and at a distance of 1.37 AU from the Earth.

From Ashburn the 2020 apparition of 88P/Howell will progress as follows:

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17 Sep 2020 – 88P/Howell reaches its brightest
26 Sep 2020 – 88P/Howell at perihelion
27 Aug 2020LibraNot observable
29 Aug 2020LibraNot observable
31 Aug 2020LibraNot observable
02 Sep 2020LibraNot observable
04 Sep 2020LibraNot observable
06 Sep 2020LibraNot observable
08 Sep 2020LibraNot observable
10 Sep 2020LibraNot observable
12 Sep 2020LibraNot observable
14 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
16 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
18 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
20 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
22 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
24 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
26 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
28 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
30 Sep 2020ScorpiusNot observable
02 Oct 2020OphiuchusNot observable
04 Oct 2020OphiuchusNot observable
06 Oct 2020OphiuchusNot observable

A more detailed table of 88P/Howell's position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of 88P/Howell is available here.

On 17 September it will not be observable – it will reach its highest point in the sky during daytime and will be no higher than 15° above the horizon at dusk.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of 88P/Howell 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 on 17 September 2020. 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 on 17 September 2020 will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet 88P/Howell 15h59m50s -23°53' Scorpius 8.6

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 17 September 2020
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

29-day old moon
Waxing Crescent


29 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:48 14:25 20:02
Venus 03:22 10:21 17:20
Moon 07:04 13:25 19:47
Mars 20:43 03:12 09:37
Jupiter 15:52 20:36 01:23
Saturn 16:20 21:10 02:03
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 18 Jul 2020.

Image credit

None available.






Color scheme