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ALPO Comet News for November 2018

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#1 Carl H.

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 01:45 AM



[updated 2018-November-6: added 10th magnitude C/2018 L2 (ATLAS)]
Comet 46P/Wirtanen rapidly brightens this month as it approaches to within 0.078 AU of the Earth on Dec 16. Depending on how dark your skies are, Wirtanen may be a naked eye object in December (or even as early as late November). Wirtanen isn’t the only cometary attraction this month. Two short-period comets come to perihelion in November. Both 38P/Stephan-Oterma and 64P/Swift-Gehrels should peak between magnitude 9 and 9.5 this month.


Bright Comets (magnitude < 10)
38P/Stephan-Oterma - Halley family comet 38P/Stephan-Oterma has an orbital period of ~38 years and is returning for the first time since 1980. This comet has a bit of an interesting backstory. In 1867, it was first sighted by Jérôme E. Coggia (Marseilles, France) who thought he had found an uncatalogued nebula. Over the following nights, followup observations by E. J. M. Stephan (Marseilles, France) uncovered the true nature of the object. For some reason, the discovery announcement cited Stephan as the discoverer with no mention of Coggia. After being missed at its next return in 1904, the comet was photographically rediscovered in 1942 by Liisi Oterma (Turku, Finland).
Stephen-Oterma is a morning object though it should be high enough to observe for most northern observers by 11 pm to midnight. This month should see the comet at its brightest (between magnitude 9.0 and 9.5) as it reaches perihelion (1.59 AU) on November 10 and closest approach to Earth (0.77 AU) on December 17. It will be moving through Gemini (Nov 1-25, 28-29) and Cancer (25-28, 29-30).

T = 2018-Nov-10  q = 1.59 AU   Short-Period comet  Period = 38.0 yr
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01   9.6   07 10  +18 37   1.593   0.935   111    Gem
2018-11-11   9.4   07 32  +21 30   1.588   0.872   116    Gem
2018-11-21   9.3   07 52  +24 50   1.593   0.823   122    Gem
2018-12-01   9.3   08 09  +28 34   1.608   0.788   129    Cnc

46P/Wirtanen - The brightest comet of the year will be 46P/Wirtanen which passes within 0.078 AU of the Earth in mid-December.
While the comet is still a southern object, this month sees the comet start its acceleration northward across the sky. Starting the month at a declination of -33 degrees, Wirtanen ends the month at -19 degrees as it moves through Fornax (Nov 1-27) and Cetus (27-30). Next month the comet will be located at significantly more northern declinations.


Chris Wyatt reported Wirtanen to be at magnitude 7.7 on November 3. This is very close to the prediction based on past apparitions. Its rapid brightening should bring the comet to magnitude 7.0 by the 10th, 6.0 by the 20th and 5.0 by the 28th. Recent CCD images by Martin Mobberley have even caught the development of a gas tail.


Assuming it behaves as in the past, Wirtanen should peak around magnitude 3 in mid-December. Note, that as a short-period comet, Wirtanen is likely to be a large diffuse object around the time of closest approach. It is possible its coma diameter will be in excess of 1 degree. Already visual observations by Chris Wyatt and CCD observations by Raymond Ramlow show Wirtanen to possess a coma with a diameter of 20+ arc minutes (0.33 degrees). Even at its brightest, do not expect the comet to appear as bright as a 3rd magnitude star since its light will be spread over a large area. Observers may need a relatively dark sky to see Wirtanen with the naked eye.


T = 2018-Dec-12  q = 1.06 AU   Short-Period comet  Period = 5.4 yr
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01   8.0   01 59  -33 03   1.195   0.275   132    For
2018-11-11   6.9   02 02  -32 33   1.140   0.221   128    For
2018-11-21   5.8   02 11  -29 05   1.096   0.169   126    For
2018-12-01   4.6   02 32  -19 51   1.068   0.121   129    Cet

64P/Swift-Gehrels - Comet Swift-Gehrels was originally discovered visually by Lewis Swift (Rochester, New York) in 1889. Swift was also the discoverer of the Perseid parent body, Swift-Tuttle. After the 1889 apparition Swift’s comet went unobserverd until 1973 when its was rediscovered by Tom Gehrels on photographic plates taken at Palomar Observatory in southern California. 2018 marks Swift-Gehrels’ 7th observed return. Since its discovery in 1889, the comet’s orbit has been fairly stable with an orbital period of 9.4 years and perihelion distance near its current value of 1.39 AU. Not an especially bright object, this year’s return will be its best known return with a minimum Earth-comet distance of 0.44 AU on October 28. You will have to wait till 2092 for another return as good as this year’s though the 2046 return will be just a little worse than this year.


64P has already shown some excitement with a short lived outburst that saw it brighten by ~2-3 magnitudes to around 13th magnitude in mid-August. After its outburst, Swift-Gehrels seemed to be running a little brighter than expected. The most recent magnitude estimates from Chris Wyatt and Salvador Aguirre place the comet around magnitude 9.9-10.0 which is fairly close to its predicted brightness.


Now an evening object, Swift-Gehrels can be seen moving through Andromeda (Nov 1-25) and Triangulum (25-30). Perihelion occurs on November 3 at 1.39 AU and closest approach to Earth was a week earlier on October 27 at 0.44 AU. In the past, the comet reached its peak intrinsic brightness five weeks after perihelion. If it follows the same pattern, Swift-Gehrels should continue to brighten to a late November peak at magnitude 9.5.


T = 2018-Nov-03  q = 1.39 AU   Short-Period comet  Period = 8.9 yr.
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01  10.1   00 48  +36 53   1.394   0.446   148    And
2018-11-11   9.7   01 02  +36 45   1.396   0.457   146    Tri
2018-11-21   9.5   01 20  +35 54   1.408   0.481   144    tri 
2018-12-01   9.5   01 42  +34 34   1.431   0.519   141    Tri

Faint Comets (between magnitude 10 and 13)
21P/Giacobini-ZInner - Short-period comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner is now two months past its September perihelion. After reaching a peak brightness of around magnitude 7.0, the comet faded more rapidly than expected in October. A CCD observation by Raymond Ramlow on November 4 found Giacobini-Zinner at magnitude 10.4.


November should see the comet steadily fade as it moves away from the Sun and Earth. The comet also continues moving deeper into the southern sky. Visual and CCD observers can continue to enjoy the comet moving against the rich Milky Way constellations of Canis Major (Nov 1-11) and Puppis (11-30).


Looking ahead, Giacobini-Zinner’s next return in 2025 will be very poor with the comet located on the other side of the Sun at perihelion. In 2031 the comet will be better placed with a minimum Earth-comet distance of 0.55 AU (versus 0.39 AU this year) and a slightly larger perihelion distance of 1.07 AU (versus 1.01 AU this year). The comet should brighten to magnitude 8 or so that year.

T = 2018-Sep-10  q = 1.01 AU   Short-Period comet  Period = 6.5 yr

    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01  10.4   07 25  -28 08   1.245   0.660    95    CMa
2018-11-11  11.2   07 24  -33 09   1.326   0.727    99    CMa
2018-11-21  11.9   07 17  -36 42   1.412   0.793   104    Pup
2018-12-01  12.5   07 07  -38 53   1.501   0.859   108    Pup


C/2016 M1 (PANSTARRS) - Comet C/2006 M1 (PANSTARRS) continues to slowly fade. Visual observations by Chris Wyatt on November 3 found the comet at magnitude 10.4. Having passed perihelion on August 10 at 2.21 AU and now moving away from both the Earth and Sun, C/2016 M1 should continue to slowly fade as it moves through the southern constellations of Circinus and Apus.

T = 2018-Aug-10  q = 2.21 AU   Long-Period comet - dynamically old

    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01  10.7   14 50  -68 16   2.406   2.848    54    Cir 
2018-11-11  10.9   15 03  -70 56   2.453   2.906    53    Aps
2018-11-21  11.0   15 20  -73 52   2.504   2.950    54    Aps 
2018-12-01  11.2   15 42  -77 04   2.558   2.982    55    Aps


C/2016 N6 (PANSTARRS) - Yet another faint, high q, PANSTARRS discovery, C/2016 N6 was imaged by Raymond Ramlow at magnitude 12.6 on November 2nd and observed visually by J. J. Gonzalez at magnitude 11.8 on October 20. The comet is now 4 months past perihelion (2.67 AU on July 18, 2018). A decreasing Earth-comet distance will result in the comet staying near magnitude 12 even though it is moving away from the Sun in November.

T = 2018-Jul-18  q = 2.67 AU   Long-Period comet - dynamically old

    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01  12.2   08 54  +02 17   2.889   2.836    83    Hya 
2018-11-11  12.2   08 47  -01 09   2.930   2.699    93    Hya
2018-11-21  12.2   08 37  -04 44   2.974   2.575   104    Hya
2018-12-01  12.2   08 23  -08 28   3.020   2.473   114    Hya


C/2018 L2 (ATLAS) - A nice surprise comet, C/2018 L2 was discovered during the course of the ATLAS, or "Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System", survey on June 6th with a 0.5-m f/2 Schmidt reflector at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. At the time of discovery the comet was 15th magnitude. As recently as September 6th, the comet was around magnitude 14. On October 3rd, J. J. Gonzalez reported the comet visually at magnitude 9.8. Other observations placed the comet between magnitude 9.1 and 11.1 over the past few weeks. Comet ATLAS is a dynamically old long-period comet. Such comets can brighten rapidly as they approach perihelion. They are also prone to possessing large gas comae. While the comet's recent increase in brightness may be due to an outburst, it is possible that observers have started to detect a large, low surface brightness, gas coma that was not detected earlier. 


Comet ATLAS will pass perihelion on 2018 December 2 at a distance of 1.71 AU from the Sun. The magnitude predictions below are uncertain since they are based on a very short baseline of only a few weeks. The comet may be fainter, or brighter. It is an evening object and gets low in a hurry.


C/2018 L2 (ATLAS)

T = 2018-Dec-02  q = 2.67 AU   Long-Period comet - dynamically old

    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01  10.4   16 20  +01 50   1.761   2.507    33    Ser
2018-11-11  10.0   16 41  +04 01   1.735   2.489    32    Her
2018-11-21   9.8   17 04  +06 25   1.719   2.463    32    Oph
2018-12-01   9.7   17 29  +09 03   1.712   2.433    34    Oph


Other Comets of Interest
(944) Hidalgo and (3552) Don Quixote - Two bright low activity or dormant comets come to perihelion this year. (3552) Don Quixote is still designated an asteroid even though a tail was seen in 2009 with the Spitzer IR space telescope and again this March at visible wavelengths with a 4.1-m telescope. This month Don Quixote is fading from magnitude 16.5 to 17.2. (944) Hidalgo reaches peak brightness at magnitude 14.3 this month. Unlike Don Quixote, Hidalgo has shown no cometary activity so far.
(944) Hidalgo

T = 2018-Oct-26  q = 1.95 AU   Extinct comet       Period = 13.8 yr

    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const

2018-11-01  14.4   08 35  +70 59   1.948   1.476   102    UMa 
2018-11-11  14.3   09 34  +73 38   1.954   1.456   104    Dra
2018-11-21  14.3   10 37  +75 27   1.964   1.448   105    Dra
2018-12-01  14.3   11 36  +76 34   1.979   1.450   107    Dra
(3552) Don Quixote

T = 2018-May-07  q = 1.24 AU   Extinct comet       Period =  8.8 yr

    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  const
2018-11-01  16.5   01 29  +54 13   2.393   1.556   138    Cas 
2018-11-11  16.7   01 12  +53 05   2.475   1.647   138    Cas
2018-11-21  16.9   01 01  +51 31   2.557   1.759   135    Cas
2018-12-01  17.2   00 56  +49 49   2.638   1.891   130    Cas

As always, the Comet Section is happy to receive all comet observations, whether images, drawings, magnitude estimates, and even spectra. Please send your observations via email to < carl.hergenrother @ alpo-astronomy.org >.
- Carl Hergenrother (ALPO Comet Section Coordinator)

Edited by Carl H., 05 November 2018 - 07:08 PM.

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#2 Carl H.

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Posted 08 November 2018 - 05:26 PM



Wow, this is cool!


Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 4569 reports that for the first time since 2010, a comet has been discovered visually. Former ALPO Comet Section Coordinator Don Machholz discovered the currently unnamed and undesignated comet at magnitude 10.5 in Virgo in the morning sky on November 7.5 UT. Two independent discoveries were also made by two Japanese CCD observers, Shigehisa Fujikawa on November 7.82 and Masayuki Iwamoto on November 7.84 UT. All three observers have made past comet discoveries. This is Machholz's 12th discovery and first since C/2010 F4 (after 746 hours of visual searching), the second for Iwamoto after his find of C/2013 E2 (Iwamoto) and the seventh discovery for Fujikawa (his first being C/1969 P1 (Fujikawa) and the last being C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa). Machholz used a 0.47-m reflector at 113x while Fujikawa used a CCD + 120-mm-f.l. f/3.5 lens and Iwamoto used a 10-cm f/4.0 Pentax SDUF II telephoto lens and a Canon EOS 6D camera.


The fact that such a bright comet was discovered by three active observers in a span of ~8 hours suggests the object may have just experienced an outburst. The last visual discovery, C/2010 V1 and now 332P/Ikeya-Murakami, was a short-period comet caught in the midst of an outburst and splitting event. It will be interesting to see if the new comet is a long- or short-period comet and whether it is in the midst of an outburst.


In a nice break from how comets have been reported over the past few decades, the comet was announced without a designation or even orbit. Lately, comets have been officially reported after many days to weeks of follow-up. For now ephemerides can be produced by visiting the Minor Planet Center's Possible Comet Confirmation Page (PCCP) at https://www.minorpla...cp_tabular.html . The new bright comet is listed as DM001. Note the PCCP lists the comet at 13th magnitude but that is based on CCD astrometry. The actual magnitude is around 10.5.

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#3 Carl H.

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Posted 11 November 2018 - 10:45 AM



We are still waiting for the official designation, name and orbit for comet DM001 (its provisional designation on the Minor Planet Center's Possible Comet Confirmation Page (PCCP). It will be interesting to see if it will be called Comet Machholz, Comet Machholz-Fujikawa or Comet Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto. I'm hoping for the later.


Previously, I had surmised that the comet might be a short-period comet undergoing an outburst. Hence, why it was suddenly discovered as a bright object by three amateurs within ~8 hours of each other. The outburst case appears to still be in play. It was reported by Machholz at magnitude 10.5 at discovery. J. J. Gonzalez saw the comet at magnitude 9.9 on Nov. 9.22 UT. Chris Wyatt saw it even brighter at 8.9 on Nov. 10.72 UT. Charles Morris just posted an estimate on comets-ml from last night (Nov. 11.55 UT) placing the comet closer to magnitude 7.5!


Enough astrometry has been reported to the MPC that we can determine its orbit. It appears to be a long-period comet with a perihelion on December 3 at 0.39 AU and inclination of 144 degrees. The comet was too close to the Sun to be seen until a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it will drop back into the glare of the Sun in another week or two. After that the comet will not be visible to northern hemisphere observers. Southern hemisphere observers should be able to image the comet again starting next February. I say imaging since the comet will then be much further from the Sun and Earth at that time.

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#4 Carl H.

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Posted 11 November 2018 - 01:46 PM

*** COMET C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto) ***


It is now official. The new comet discovered by renowned amateur comet hunters Don Machholz, Shigehisa Fujikawa and Masayuki Iwamoto on November 7 has been officially announced as C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto) on MPEC 2018-V151. This marks the first visual comet discovery in almost exactly 8 years since the discovery of 332P/2010 V1 (Ikeya-Murakami). It is also the first comet to bear three names since C/2015 VL62 (Lemmon-Yeung-PanSTARRS) and the first to bear three amateur names in 24 years! Don was involved with that comet as well [C/1994 N1 (Nakamura-Nishimura-Machholz)]. 


The published orbit is similar to the one presented in the previous post. A long-period orbit with eccentricity of 1, inclination of 144 degrees and perihelion on December 3rd at 0.39 AU.


A correction to a previous post... This comet marks the seventh to bear Shigehisa Fujikawa's name. He also independently discovered two comets in 1968, C/1968 N1 (Honda) and C/1968 H1 (Tago-Honda-Yamamoto). His other discoveries include C/1969 P1 (Fujikawa), C/1970 B1 (Daido-Fujikawa), C/1975 T1 (Mori-Sato-Fujikawa), C/1983 J1 (Sugano-Saigusa-Fujikawa), C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa) and a rediscovery of comet 72P/Denning-Fujikawa. 


This is Masayuki Iwamoto's second comet after C/2013 E2 (Iwamoto). Don Machholz's previous discoveries include 96P/Machholz, 141P/Machholz, C/1978 R3 (Machholz), C/1985 K1 (Machholz), C/1988 P1 (Machholz), C/1992 F1 (Tanaka-Machholz), C/1992 N1 (Machholz), C/1994 N1 (Nakamura-Nishimura-Machholz), C/1994 T1 (Machholz), C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) and C/2010 F4 (Machholz).

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#5 Vickx


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Posted 12 November 2018 - 08:40 AM

The end of the year looks very promising.

The C/2018 V1 is really beautiful. I was able to spot this comet in my 12×50 pair of binoculars last time this morning (Nov 12.23 UT) and estimated it as 8.5 mag.

I also observed several more comets during this weekend using my 16" dobsonian:

"Old" ones: 21P, 29P, 38P, 46P, 48P, 64P, 78P, C/2018 L2 (ATLAS) and C/2016 N6 (PanSTARRS)

and several "new":

C/2017 T2 (PanSTARRS): quite faint, but detectable at 230×

60P/Tsuchinshan: faint but visible at 230×, 288× and 383×, can be somewhere around 15,3 mag

C/2018 A3 (ATLAS): also very faint, visible at 383×, estimated as 15,6 mag

123P/West-Hartley: something suspected at 383x, it can be about 16 mag now


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#6 Carl H.

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Posted 12 November 2018 - 01:56 PM

Was able to observe the past two nights. Newly discovered C/2018 V1 was a small and well condensed at magnitude 8.4. My magnitude agrees well with Vic's report. 46P was quite large and will undoubtably become much larger over the next few weeks. I also tried to observe C/2018 L2 (ATLAS) which has been reported to be as bright as 9th magnitude. I was not able to see it as my limiting magnitude in that part of the sky was not very faint due to sky glow from Tucson and smoke from the LA area fires.


C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto)

2018 Nov 12.50 UT: m1= 8.4, Dia.=3'; 30x125 B; Carl Hergenrother (Tucson, AZ)

2018 Nov 12.50 UT: m1= 8.4, Dia.=3'; 10x50 B; Carl Hergenrother (Tucson, AZ)



2018 Nov 11.33 UT: m1= 9.9, Dia.=3'; 30x125 B; Carl Hergenrother (Tucson, AZ)



2018 Nov 11.18 UT: m1= 7.4, Dia.=10'; 30x125 B; Carl Hergenrother (Tucson, AZ)



2018 Nov 12.07 UT: m1= 9.5, Dia.=3'; 30x125 B; Carl Hergenrother (Tucson, AZ)

2018 Nov 11.34 UT: m1= 9.4, Dia.=5'; 30x125 B; Carl Hergenrother (Tucson, AZ)

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