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

Comet 96P/Machholz passes perigee

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Comet 96P/Machholz will make its closest approach to the Earth on 31 January, at a distance of of 0.89 AU.

From Ashburn on the day of perigee it will not be readily observable since it will be very close to the Sun, at a separation of only 3° from it.

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The events that comprise the 2023 apparition of 96P/Machholz are as follows:

Date Event
31 Jan 2023Comet 96P/Machholz passes perigee
31 Jan 2023Comet 96P/Machholz passes perihelion

The table below lists the times when 96P/Machholz will be visible from Ashburn day-by-day through its apparition:

Date Constellation Comet visibility
10 Jan 2023SagittariusNot observable
12 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
14 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
16 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
18 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
20 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
22 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
24 Jan 2023MicroscopiumNot observable
26 Jan 2023CapricornusNot observable
28 Jan 2023CapricornusNot observable
30 Jan 2023CapricornusNot observable
01 Feb 2023AquariusNot observable
03 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
05 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
07 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
09 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
11 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
13 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
15 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
17 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable
19 Feb 2023AquilaNot observable

A more detailed table of 96P/Machholz's position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of 96P/Machholz is available here.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of 96P/Machholz 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 4 on 31 January 2023. This estimate is based on observations that the BAA has received from amateur astronomers, assuming that its current level of activity will remain constant.

The comet's position at perigee will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet 96P/Machholz 21h00m20s 13°51'S Aquarius 4.0

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 31 Jan 2023

The sky on 31 January 2023
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

10-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


10 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:49 10:37 15:25
Venus 08:31 13:58 19:25
Moon 12:54 20:43 04:37
Mars 12:26 19:57 03:27
Jupiter 09:42 15:49 21:56
Saturn 08:04 13:19 18:35
All times shown in EST.


Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.


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 27 Apr 2024.

Image credit

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





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