Comet Chasing in February


Comet chasing is the visual observation of telescopic comets.

News


Comet Visibility in the Eyepiece

This page uses code developed for SkyTools 3 to predict the visibility of a comet in the eyepiece.  Predicting how much aperture is required to see a comet is a very complex task.  Have a look for yourself: a comparison of the predictions below (such as "visible in small telescopes") to the magnitude of each comet shows just how poor an indicator the magnitude alone really is.  When you read below that a particular aperture is required to see a comet you can have a reasonable degree of confidence that the comet can in fact be seen in the eyepiece.

Comet Synopses for February


Explanation of Comet Synopses and charts (read this if you have questions)  

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy): An evening comet visible to the naked eye
This comet begins the month in Andromeda at magnitude 4.5. Look for a 11.5' coma. It should fade by about 1.3 magnitudes, moving into Perseus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N High during evening twilight at ~18:30 High at ~19:00 High at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:30 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~04:50 1-
40o N High during evening twilight at ~18:40 High at ~19:10 High at ~19:10 High in moonlight at ~19:20 High during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
Equator High during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high at ~19:30 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
30o S Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-13

15P/Finlay: An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 10.5. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should fade by about 1.1 magnitudes, moving into Aries by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
40o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~18:40 Fairly high at ~19:00 Fairly high at ~19:10 Fairly high in moonlight at ~19:10 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
Equator Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
30o S Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:40 1-

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring): A morning comet visible in an 8-inch (20 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 11.7. Look for a 1' coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Hercules by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:50 Fairly high at ~05:20 High at ~05:00 High at ~04:40 1-
40o N Fairly high at ~05:30 High during morning twilight at ~05:40 High in moonlight at ~05:20 High at ~05:10 High at ~05:00 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high in moonlight at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 1-
30o S Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 1-

17P/Holmes: An evening comet visible in an 8-inch (20 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Perseus at magnitude 13.0. Look for a 10" coma. It should fade by about 0.6 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N High in moonlight at ~19:10 High at ~19:10 High at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:30 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
40o N High in moonlight at ~19:10 High at ~19:10 High at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:20 High during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
Equator High during evening twilight at ~19:30 High at ~19:30 High at ~19:30 High in moonlight at ~19:30 High during evening twilight at ~19:20 1-
30o S Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:40 1-

88P/Howell: A morning comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Sagittarius at magnitude 12.5. Look for a 55" coma. It should brighten by about 0.7 magnitudes by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:40 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-
30o S Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 1-

29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann: A morning comet visible in a 12.5-inch (32 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Scorpius at magnitude 13.0. Look for a 1' coma. It should brighten slowly. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Very low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high in moonlight at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 1-
30o S Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:20 High in moonlight at ~04:10 High at ~04:20 High at ~04:20 1-

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Sculptor at magnitude 12.2. Look for a 2.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.9 magnitudes, moving into Cetus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Not visible Not visible 1-14
Equator Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:20 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 1-
30o S Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:40 1-

C/2014 Q3 (Borisov): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Cygnus at magnitude ~12.4. Look for a ~3.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.5 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility January 31 Visibility February 7 Visibility February 14 Visibility February 21 Visibility February 28 Nights Visible
55o N High during morning twilight at ~05:50 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Fairly high at ~04:30 High at ~05:00 High at ~04:40 1-
40o N Fairly high at ~05:30 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:40 Fairly high in moonlight at ~05:20 High at ~05:10 High at ~05:00 1-
Equator Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-1, 4-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

      

Summary Data for This Month's Telescopic Comets


Here's a list of the comets brighter than 15th magnitude.  This table is updated as necessary.  The last column indicates the date of the last observation used to compute these values.  The constellation listed is where the comet was on the first of the month.
Comet Constellation

February 1st

February 15th

February 28th

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) Andromeda 4.7 12.0' 5.3 9.6' 5.9 7.8' 2015 February 4
15P/Finlay Pisces 10.6 1.3' 11.0 1.2' 11.6 1.1' 2015 January 25
C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) Ophiuchus 11.8 1.1' 11.9 1.1' 12.1 1.2' 2015 January 17
C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) Sculptor 12.3 2.7' 12.7 2.5' 13.0 2.3' 2015 January 17
88P/Howell Sagittarius 12.4 51" 12.1 53" 11.8 56" 2015 January 25
C/2014 Q3 (Borisov) Cygnus 12.5? 3.6'? 12.7? 3.5'? 13? 3.4'? 2014 November 25
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Scorpius 13.0 60" 12.9 1.0' 12.9 1.1' 2015 February 4
C/2014 R1 (Borisov) Ophiuchus 13.0 1.4' 13.3 1.4' 13.5 1.4' 2015 January 25
17P/Holmes Perseus 13.1 12" 13.4 11" 13.7 10" 2015 January 30
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Aquarius 13? 1'? 13? 1'? 13? 1'? 2014 December 19
32P/Comas Sola Leo 14.1 33" 14.3 33" 14.5 33" 2015 January 18
4P/Faye Hydra 15? 43"? 15? 41"? 15? 39"? 2014 November 30

*In solar conjunction and generally not visible

For the latest news and comet observations see the ICQ/CBAT/MPC: Recent Comet Magnitude Estimates page.  The Astronomical Headlines page of the IAU is also a good source of information, particularly for recent discoveries.

For general information about comets see Gary W. Kronk's Cometography 

Join the Comet Chasing discussion group 

Further reading: see Comet Chasing, Sky & Telescope, April 2005, pg. 83.

Make your own custom charts for your location and telescope/binoculars: software for comet observing
 

Links

Chasing Comet ISON

Skyhound's Guide to Comets
Skyhound's Guide to Finding Comets
BAA Comet Section
Astronomical Headlines (IAU)
Cometography