Comet Chasing in May


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 May


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

C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS): A morning comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 7.5. Look for a 7.5' coma. It should brighten by about 1.1 magnitudes, moving into Aquarius by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART

Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-
40o N Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:30 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:10 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:10 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high at ~04:40 High at ~04:40 High during morning twilight at ~04:50 High during morning twilight at ~04:50 1-
30o S Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high at ~05:10 High at ~05:10 High during morning twilight at ~05:20 High during morning twilight at ~05:30 1-

252P/LINEAR: A morning comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Ophiuchus at magnitude 7.8. Look for a 10' coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Hercules by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N High during morning twilight at ~01:20 High during morning twilight at ~00:50 High during morning twilight at ~01:50 High during morning twilight at ~00:40 High during evening twilight at ~00:00 1-
40o N High at ~01:40 High at ~02:10 High at ~01:40 High in moonlight at ~01:10 High at ~00:20 1-
Equator High at ~01:00 High at ~02:10 High at ~01:30 High in moonlight at ~01:00 High at ~23:50 1-
30o S High at ~00:30 High at ~02:10 High at ~01:30 High in moonlight at ~01:00 High at ~23:20 1-

C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS): An evening comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Ursa Major at magnitude 10.6. Look for a 2.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.8 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~22:40 High during evening twilight at ~23:10 High during evening twilight at ~23:00 High during evening twilight at ~22:50 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~23:40 1-
40o N High at ~21:00 High at ~21:00 Fairly high in the western sky at ~01:30 High during evening twilight at ~21:00 High at ~21:20 1-
Equator High at ~20:30 High at ~20:00 High in moonlight at ~19:20 High in moonlight at ~19:50 High at ~19:20 1-
30o S Low in the northern sky at ~20:30 Low in the northern sky at ~20:00 Low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~19:20 Fairly high in the northern sky in moonlight at ~19:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~18:40 1-

C/2015 WZ (PANSTARRS): A morning comet visible in an 8-inch (20 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Pegasus at magnitude 10.9. Look for a 4.5' coma. It should brighten slowly, moving into Cygnus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~01:40 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~01:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~01:10 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~01:10 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~00:10 1-
40o N Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Fairly high at ~03:00 Fairly high at ~02:50 High during morning twilight at ~03:10 Fairly high at ~00:20 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high at ~04:40 Fairly high at ~04:40 High during morning twilight at ~04:50 High in moonlight at ~04:40 1-
30o S Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 1-

9P/Tempel: An evening comet visible in an 8-inch (20 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Leo at magnitude 13.5. Look for a 10" coma. It should brighten by about 0.6 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N High during evening twilight at ~22:20 High during evening twilight at ~22:30 High during evening twilight at ~22:40 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~22:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~23:30 1-
40o N High at ~21:10 High at ~21:00 High during evening twilight at ~20:50 High during evening twilight at ~20:50 High during evening twilight at ~21:10 1-
Equator High at ~21:00 High at ~20:40 High in moonlight at ~20:10 High in moonlight at ~20:10 High at ~19:30 1-
30o S High at ~21:00 High at ~20:40 High in moonlight at ~20:10 High in moonlight at ~20:00 High at ~19:20 1-

C/2013 US10 (Catalina): A northern hemisphere evening comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Perseus at magnitude 10.9. Look for a 2' coma. It should fade by about 0.9 magnitudes, moving into Auriga by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:30 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:50 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:50 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:40 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~23:50 1-
40o N Fairly high in the western sky at ~20:40 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:40 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:30 Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~21:00 1-
Equator Low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Not visible Not visible 1-19
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

81P/Wild: An evening comet visible in a 10-inch (25 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Gemini at magnitude 12.1. Look for a 1.5' coma. It should brighten slowly, moving into Cancer by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:20 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:10 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~22:30 1-
40o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:40 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:10 1-
Equator High at ~19:20 Fairly high at ~19:20 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:00 Fairly high at ~19:20 1-
30o S Fairly high in the northern sky at ~18:50 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~18:40 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:30 Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 Fairly high in the western sky at ~18:30 1-

C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS): A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in a 12.5-inch (32 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Draco at magnitude 13.0. Look for a 1' coma. It should remain constant.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N High at ~01:00 High during morning twilight at ~00:20 High during evening twilight at ~23:40 High during morning twilight at ~00:10 High during evening twilight at ~00:00 1-
40o N High at ~01:40 High at ~02:40 High at ~02:20 High in moonlight at ~01:00 High at ~00:20 1-
Equator Low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~04:30 Low in the northern sky at ~03:30 Low in the northern sky at ~02:20 Low in the northern sky in moonlight at ~01:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~23:50 1-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

116P/Wild: A morning comet visible in a 16-inch (41 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Scorpius at magnitude 13.5. Look for a 40" coma. It should fade slowly, moving into Libra by month's end. The best visibility is early in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N Low in the southern sky at ~01:10 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~00:40 Low in the southern sky during morning twilight at ~00:00 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~23:30 Low in the southern sky during evening twilight at ~23:40 1-
40o N Fairly high in the southern sky at ~01:10 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~00:40 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~01:30 Fairly high in the southern sky in moonlight at ~23:30 Fairly high in the southern sky at ~23:00 1-
Equator High at ~01:00 High at ~00:40 High at ~01:10 High in moonlight at ~23:40 High at ~23:00 1-
30o S High at ~00:30 High at ~00:40 High at ~00:50 High in moonlight at ~23:40 High at ~23:00 1-

333P/LINEAR: A northern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Perseus at magnitude 13.9. Look for a 35" coma. It should fade by about 0.7 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 30 Visibility May 7 Visibility May 14 Visibility May 21 Visibility May 28 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:00 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~22:30 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~01:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~01:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~00:20 1-
40o N Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Very low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:20 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:00 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 30-
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

Summary Data for This Month's Telescopic Comets


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

May 1st

May 15th

May 31st

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) Pisces 7.5 4.0' 7.1 5.0' 6.5 7.1' 2016 May 2
252P/LINEAR Ophiuchus 7.9 10.0' 8.9 7.5' 10.0 5.5' 2016 May 2
C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS) Ursa Major 10.6 2.4' 10.9 2.2' 11.4 2.0' 2016 May 2
C/2015 WZ (PANSTARRS) Pegasus 10.9 3.0' 10.7 3.5' 10.5 4.3' 2016 May 1
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Perseus 11.0 2.0' 11.4 1.8' 11.8 1.7' 2016 April 27
81P/Wild Gemini 12.1 1.4' 11.9 1.4' 11.8 1.4' 2016 April 30
C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS) Draco 13.0 1.1' 13.0 1.1' 13.1 1.1' 2016 May 2
104P/Kowal Taurus 13.1 48" 13.4 46" 13.8 43" 2016 March 31
9P/Tempel Leo 13.5 14" 13.2 13" 12.9 12" 2016 April 30
116P/Wild Scorpius 13.5 39" 13.6 39" 13.9 37" 2016 April 16
333P/LINEAR Perseus 13.9 37" 14.2 35" 14.6 35" 2016 March 31
C/2014 W11 (PANSTARRS) Hydra 14.4? 1.1'? 14.5? 1.1'? 14.7? 1.0'? 2016 February 11
53P/Van Biesbroeck Capricornus 14.5 33" 14.3 36" 14.2 39" 2016 April 11
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Sagittarius 14.5 1.1' 14.4 1.2' 14.3 1.2' 2016 March 14
77P/Longmore Corvus 14.6 31" 14.8 29" 15.0 26" 2016 April 9
22P/Kopff Pisces 14.9? 1.5'? 15.3? 1.5'? 15.7? 1.5'? 2015 November 30
C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) Pisces 15.0 30" 14.9 31" 14.9 32" 2016 January 2
C/2015 V2 (Johnson) Lynx 15.1 21" 15.0 21" 14.9 21" 2016 April 7

*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

Skyhound's Guide to Comets
Skyhound's Guide to Finding Comets
BAA Comet Section
Weekly Information About Bright Comets
Cometography