Comet Chasing in April


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 April


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

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy): A far-northern evening comet visible in binoculars
This comet begins the month in Cassiopeia at magnitude 6.4. Look for a 6.5' coma. It should fade by about 1.0 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~20:40 Fairly high at ~21:30 Fairly high at ~02:00 High at ~01:40 High in moonlight at ~01:00 1-
40o N Fairly high in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~19:50 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~20:20 Fairly high in the northern sky at ~03:30 Fairly high at ~03:20 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:20 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2015 G2 (MASTER): A morning comet visible in binoculars
This comet is currently in Aquarius at 9th magnitude. Look for at least a 7.5' coma. It should brighten rapidly, reaching 7th magnitude by the each of the month, when it will have moved into Sculptor. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere. This comet will pas very close to the Helix nebula on April 20.   FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible 1-21
Equator Not visible Fairly high during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~04:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-
30o S Not visible Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high at ~05:00 High at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:20 1-

88P/Howell: A morning comet visible in small telescopes
This comet begins the month in Capricornus at magnitude 9.8. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should remain constant, moving into Aquarius by month's end. The best visibility is mid-month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:30 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:10 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Not visible 1-
Equator Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:40 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 1-
30o S Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:00 Fairly high at ~05:00 Fairly high at ~05:00 Fairly high during morning twilight at ~05:20 1-

C/2015 F3 (SWAN): A far-northern morning comet visible in a 6-inch (15 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Cassiopeia at magnitude 10.1. Look for a 3.5' coma. It should fade by about 0.9 magnitudes, moving into Cepheus by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high during morning twilight at ~03:30 Fairly high at ~01:50 High at ~02:00 High at ~01:40 High during evening twilight at ~22:30 1-
40o N Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~04:20 Low in the northern sky at ~20:10 Fairly high at ~03:30 Fairly high at ~03:10 High in moonlight at ~21:10 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  

C/2013 US10 (Catalina): A southern hemisphere morning comet visible in a 6-inch (15 cm) telescope
This comet should begin the month in Aquarius at magnitude ~12.1, although I have not seen any recent observation reports. It should brighten by about 0.8 magnitudes by month's end. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
Equator Not visible Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:00 Low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:50 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 ~05:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:10 Fairly high in the eastern sky at ~05:00 Fairly high at ~05:00 High during morning twilight at ~05:20 1-

15P/Finlay: An evening comet visible in a 16-inch (41 cm) telescope
This comet begins the month in Taurus at magnitude 12.5. Look for a 50" coma. It should fade by about 1.1 magnitudes by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:10 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:30 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~21:30 1-
40o N Fairly high during evening twilight at ~19:40 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:20 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 1-
Equator Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:10 Fairly high in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 1-
30o S Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:00 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:50 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:40 Low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~18:20 1-

C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS): A southern hemisphere morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 13.5. Look for a 3' coma. It should brighten rapidly. The best visibility is late in the month as seen from the southern hemisphere. 
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
40o N Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
30o S Not visible Not visible Not visible Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:20 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~05:30 22-

C/2015 C2 (SWAN): A far-northern morning comet visible in very large telescopes
This comet begins the month in Pisces at magnitude 10.4. Look for a 1' coma. It is difficult to observe because of its low elongation and should fade rapidly, moving into Andromeda by month's end.  FINDER CHART
Latitude Visibility April 4 Visibility April 11 Visibility April 18 Visibility April 25 Visibility May 2 Nights Visible
55o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~20:10 Very low in the northern sky during evening twilight at ~20:50 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~02:30 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~02:00 Fairly high in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~02:10 1-
40o N Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:30 Very low in the western sky during evening twilight at ~19:40 Very low in the eastern sky during morning twilight at ~04:00 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 Low in the northern sky during morning twilight at ~03:40 1-
Equator Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible Not visible  
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

April 1st

April 15th

April 30th

Observations as of (UT)
Mag Diam Mag Diam Mag Diam
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) Cassiopeia 6.5 6.9' 6.9 6.4' 7.4 6.0' 2015 March 30
C/2015 G2 (MASTER) Aquarius - - 9.0 4.1' 7.1 7.0' 2015 April 16
88P/Howell Capricornus 9.8 3.6' 9.7 3.6' 9.8 3.7' 2015 March 28
C/2015 F3 (SWAN) Cassiopeia 10.1 3.2' 10.4 3.5' 11.0 3.6' 2015 March 28
C/2015 C2 (SWAN) Pisces 10.5 1.1' 11.3 1.0' 12.2 58" 2015 March 19
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Aquarius 12? 1.2'? 12? 1.3'? 11? 1.4'? 2014 December 19
19P/Borrelly* Cetus 12.3 1.0' 11.9 1.0' 11.5 1.0' 2015 March 21
15P/Finlay Taurus 12.6 51" 13.1 47" 13.6 42" 2015 March 11
C/2012 F3 (PANSTARRS) Aquila 14? 30"? 14? 30"? 14? 30"? 2015 January 20
C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)* Cetus 14.0 1' 14.2 1' 14.4 1' 2015 February 9
C/2010 S1 (LINEAR) Sagittarius 14.7 1' 14.6 1' 14.6 1' 2015 March 7
32P/Comas Sola Leo 14.1 55" 14.5 50" 15.0 45" 2015 March 14
C/2014 R1 (Borisov) Serpens Cauda 14.1 1.5' 14.3 1.5' 14.6 1.5' 2015 January 25
22P/Kopff Virgo 14.6 40" 14.2 42" 13.7 42" 2015 March 19
C/2014 W11 (PANSTARRS) Cancer 14.7 19" 14.8 18" 14.9 17" 2015 March 14
C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) Hercules 14.7 21" 15.0 21" 15.4 19" 2015 March 28
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Scorpius 14.8 1.1' 14.7 1.1' 14.6 1.2' 2015 February 26
C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) Auriga 14.8 21" 14.8 20" 14.7 20" 2015 March 19
110P/Hartley Gemini 14.8 44" 15.1 41" 15.4 38" 2015 February 21

*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