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ALPO Comet News for February 2020

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#1 Carl H.

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Posted 01 February 2020 - 02:42 PM

ALPO COMET NEWS FOR FEBRUARY 2020
By Carl Hergenrother - 2020-February-1
 


 

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found on the ALPO Comet Section website

 

Long period comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) continues to be well placed for northern observers in the evening sky at ~9th magnitude. Two recently announced discoveries, C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) and C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto), are fainter (10-11th magnitude) but within range of visual observers with large apertures.

 

Bright Comets (magnitude < 10.0)

C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) – The brightest comet in the sky continues to be C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS). Observations were submitted to the ALPO Comet Section in January from Salvador Aguirre, John Chumack, Michel Deconinck, J. J. Gonzalez, Carl Hergenrother, Martin Mobberley, John D. Sabia, and Tenho Tuomi. ALPO contributors made the following magnitude estimates: 9.6 on January 5.12 UT (J. J. Gonzalez, 0.20-m SCT), 10.4 on Jan. 10.07 (Salvador Aguirre, 0.20-m SCT), 9.7 on Jan. 12.07 (Carl Hergenrother, 30x125 B), 10.2 on Jan. 12.76 (Michel Deconinck, 0.25-m SCT), 9.7 on Jan. 14.10 (Hergenrother), 9.8 on Jan. 18.85 (Deconinck), and 9.7 on Jan. 19.14 (Hergenrother). The comet remains a compact object with a visual coma of 1-4’. CCD images show evidence of a larger, low surface brightness gas coma.

 

The estimates presented above placed the comet around magnitude ~9.6 to 9.8 for much of January. A number of observations submitted to the COBS site had a larger scatter with estimates as bright as ~9.0. PANSTARRS has been moving through dense star fields in Perseus. While this has made for some amazing views and images, I wonder if the dense stellar background is complicating the determination of accurate magnitude estimates. At least that has been my experience when observing with my 30x125 binoculars. Often there are too many stars in or near the comet’s coma.

 

C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) is still inbound to an early May perihelion at 1.62 au. It will continue to slowly brighten by another few tenths of a magnitude this month. It starts February within a few degrees of the Double Cluster and spends the rest of the month slowly moving from Perseus into Cassiopeia.

 

C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS)

T = 2020-May-04  q = 1.62 au                                     Max El
Long-Period comet - dynamically new                               (deg)
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  Const  40N  40S

2020-02-01   9.1   02 16  +57 58   2.038   1.627    99    Per    69    0
2020-02-06   9.1   02 11  +58 21   2.000   1.650    95    Per    65    0
2020-02-11   9.0   02 07  +58 48   1.963   1.672    91    Per    62    0
2020-02-16   9.0   02 06  +59 19   1.927   1.693    87    Cas    59    0
2020-02-21   8.9   02 05  +59 57   1.893   1.712    84    Cas    56    0
2020-02-26   8.9   02 07  +60 40   1.859   1.729    81    Cas    53    0
2020-03-02   8.8   02 09  +61 31   1.828   1.744    78    Cas    50    0

 

Faint Comets (between magnitude 10.0 and 13.0)

C/2018 N2 (ASASSN) - Comet C/2018 N2 (ASASSN) was discovered back in July 2018 by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) program. It is now well past its  November perihelion. Thanks to a large perihelion distance of 3.12 au, the comet is slow to fade. Still, it is reaching the point where it will become a difficult object for visual observers even with large apertures as it fades to around 13th magnitude. It is well placed for northern observers in the evening sky as it traverses Andromeda.

 

C/2018 N2 (ASASSN)

T = 2019-Nov-11  q = 3.12 au                                     Max El
Long-Period comet - dynamically old                               (deg)
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  Const  40N  40S

2020-02-01  12.7   23 36  +42 18   3.224   3.419    70    And    47    0 
2020-02-06  12.7   23 39  +42 56   3.237   3.482    67    And    44    0
2020-02-11  12.8   23 42  +43 39   3.250   3.543    64    And    40    0
2020-02-16  12.9   23 45  +44 24   3.263   3.601    62    And    37    0
2020-02-21  12.9   23 49  +45 13   3.277   3.655    60    And    34    0
2020-02-26  13.0   23 53  +46 06   3.292   3.707    58    And    31    0
2020-03-02  13.1   23 57  +47 01   3.308   3.755    56    And    28    0

 

C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) – C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) was discovered on 2019 December 16 UT with Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System 0.5-m f/2 astrograph at Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii. It is a long-period comet with perihelion on 2020 March 15 at 0.84 au. C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) appears to be the 4th member of a comet family associated with C/1988 A1 (Liller). Liller was a nice well-observed binocular comet that reached 5th magnitude in April 1988 even though the comet only approached within 1.22 au of Earth. As the brightest member of the “Liller” family observed so far, it is possible that Liller is the parent comet with the other objects resulting from one or more splitting events.

 

Eight years after Liller, C/1996 Q1 (Tabur) was found on a similar orbit. Tabur came closer to Earth with a minimum Earth-comet distance of 0.42 au. It also peaked at 5th magnitude but then experienced a catastrophic disruption event a few weeks before perihelion and rapidly faded from view. The third comet in the group, C/2015 F3 (SWAN) was discovered 12 days after its perihelion at around 10th magnitude. Though it rapidly faded as well, whether it also disintegrated is in question.

 

Currently, C/2019 Y1 is a low evening object. Southern hemisphere observers will lose sight of it this month. Northern observers will be able to observe it for the coming months though it will drop to low elongations over the next few weeks. Based on it being a small fragment from a past splitting event and the past behavior of comets Tabur and SWAN, it is possible C/2019 Y1 will disintegrate. If it survives, it may brighten to around magnitude 9.5 in March and April. This month, C/2019 Y1 is moving through Aquarius (Feb 1-4), Pisces (4-18), Pegasus (18-28).

 

C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS)

T = 2020-Mar-15  q = 0.84 au                                     Max El
Long-Period comet - dynamically old                               (deg)
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  Const  40N  40S

2020-02-01  11.7   23 59  -13 48   1.347   1.859    44    Aqr    18   12
2020-02-06  11.5   00 02  -10 16   1.283   1.853    40    Psc    17    8
2020-02-11  11.3   00 05  -06 41   1.221   1.844    37    Psc    16    4
2020-02-16  11.1   00 08  -03 02   1.161   1.832    34    Psc    14    0
2020-02-21  10.9   00 12  +00 39   1.103   1.817    31    Peg    13    0
2020-02-26  10.7   00 15  +04 27   1.048   1.799    28    Peg    11    0
2020-03-02  10.5   00 19  +08 20   0.998   1.776    26    Peg     9    0

 

C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto) – C/2020 A2 is yet another recent, bright discovery. Japanese amateur Masayuki Iwamoto found C/2020 A2 on January 8 at magnitude 12.8 with a 10-cm Pentax 400-mm f/4.0 lens and a Canon EOS 6D camera. This is his third discovery. His other two comets were also found low in the morning sky [C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto) and C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto)].

 

Perihelion occurred at 1.01 au on the same day as discovery. The comet should be at its brightest this month (~magnitude 11) as it makes its closest approach to Earth on February 21 at 0.92 au. It is solely a northern object as it heads north through the constellations of  Hercules (Feb 1-2), Lyra (2-12), Draco (12-24), and Cepheus (24-28).

 

C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto)

T = 2020-Jan-08  q = 1.01 au                                     Max El
Long-Period comet                                                 (deg)
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  Const  40N  40S

2020-02-01  11.2   18 19  +28 15   1.062   1.147    59    Her    40    0
2020-02-06  11.2   18 29  +35 40   1.098   1.060    64    Lyr    45    0
2020-02-11  11.1   18 43  +44 18   1.138   0.988    70    Lyr    47    0
2020-02-16  11.2   19 05  +53 58   1.183   0.939    75    Dra    48    0
2020-02-21  11.2   19 43  +64 06   1.231   0.918    80    Dra    45    0
2020-02-26  11.4   20 59  +73 16   1.282   0.929    83    Cep    40    0
2020-03-02  11.7   23 42  +78 11   1.335   0.972    85    Cep    38    0

 

Fainter Comets of Interest (fainter than magnitude 13.0)

29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann – 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann was discovered photographically in 1927 by German astronomer Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann. Observations to COBS over the past few weeks had this outburst prone object between magnitude 13 and 15.

 

A reminder that Richard Miles at the British Astronomical Society (BAA) is leading an effort to continually monitor 29P and its outbursts via CCD photometry. You can find more information at https://britastro.org/node/18562.

 

29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann

T = 2019-Mar-07  q = 5.77 au                                     Max El
Centaur comet - 14.8-yr orbital period                            (deg)
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  Const  40N  40S

2020-02-01  13-15  00 41  +13 36   5.787   6.151    63    Psc    45    2
2020-02-06  13-15  00 44  +13 49   5.788   6.223    59    Psc    41    0
2020-02-11  13-15  00 47  +14 02   5.789   6.291    55    Psc    37    0
2020-02-16  13-15  00 50  +14 17   5.789   6.356    51    Psc    33    0
2020-02-21  13-15  00 54  +14 34   5.790   6.417    47    Psc    30    0
2020-02-26  13-15  00 57  +14 51   5.791   6.475    43    Psc    26    0
2020-03-02  13-15  01 01  +15 09   5.791   6.528    39    Psc    22    0

 

2I/2019 Q4 (Borisov) – The first bona fide interstellar comet, 2I/2019 Q4 (Borisov), was discovered by Gennady Borisov on August 30 with a 0.65-m f/1.5 astrograph of his own making at MARGO observatory near Nauchnij, Crimea. The comet passed perihelion on December 8 at 2.01 au. With an eccentricity of 3.36, Borisov is rapidly moving away from the Sun now. Imagers in the southern hemisphere can watch the comet fade from around magnitude 16 to 17 as it moves through Centaurus (Feb 1-2, 22-25), Crux (2-22), and Musca (25-28).

 

2I/2019 Q4 (Borisov)
T = 2019-Dec-08  q = 2.01 au                                     Max El
Interstellar comet                                                (deg)
    Date     Mag    R.A.   Decl.     r       d    Elong  Const  40N  40S

2020-02-01  15.8   12 44  -55 05   2.341   2.076    92    Cen     0   73
2020-02-06  16.0   12 49  -57 26   2.400   2.113    94    Cru     0   72
2020-02-11  16.1   12 52  -59 34   2.461   2.153    96    Cru     0   70
2020-02-16  16.2   12 55  -61 30   2.526   2.196    97    Cru     0   68
2020-02-21  16.4   12 57  -63 13   2.594   2.240    99    Cru     0   67
2020-02-26  16.5   12 58  -64 45   2.665   2.287   101    Mus     0   65
2020-03-02  16.7   12 58  -66 04   2.737   2.335   103    Mus     0   64

 

New Discoveries, Recoveries and Other Comets in the News
P/2019 X2 (PANSTARRS) – This comet was observed by Pan-STARRS on 2019 November 25, 29, and December 4 before finally being recognized as a comet on images taken on December 31. The comet may have experienced a small outburst as it was imaged at 21st-22nd magnitude on the first three dates but 20th magnitude on December 31. P/2019 X2 is a short-period comet with an orbital period of 6.95 years. It is only a few weeks passed its 2019 December 9 perihelion at 1.82 au. It has likely already obtained its peak brightness.

 

P/2019 Y2 (Fuls) – D. Carson Fuls found this short-period comet on 2019 December 21 with the University of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon 1.5-m reflector. The comet was 18th magnitude at discovery and should brighten to 16th magnitude at opposition in March/April. Perihelion is on 2020 January 31 at 2.13 au. With an orbital period of 6.58 years, its next return will be in 2026.

 

P/2019 Y3 (Catalina) - Kacper W. Wierzchos used the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey 0.68-m Schmidt reflector to find this 18th magnitude comet on 2019 December 17. Perihelion was on 2019 December 13 at 0.91 au. Despite a perihelion distance within Earth’s orbit and minimum Earth-comet distance of 0.91 au, the comet will get no brighter than 18th magnitude. At its next return in 2025, P/2019 Y3 will pass 0.29 au from Earth and brighten to 15-16th magnitude.

 

C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) - ATLAS discovered this comet on December 28 at 19th magnitude. Perihelion is on 2020 May 31 at a small 0.25 au. The comet shares an orbit with C/1844 Y1, the Great Comet of 1844. Note that while this comet is not a return of the Great Comet of 1844, it may be a fragment of that comet.

 

The 1844 comet was discovered at 0th magnitude only 3 days after perihelion when only 11 degrees from the Sun. C/2019 Y4 is running 7-8 magnitudes fainter than the 1844 comet. Currently the comet is around 16th magnitude and may brighten to ~15.0 by the end of February. Depending on how rapidly it brightens, its peak could be anywhere between 6th or 8th magnitude. But that's a 6th to 8th magnitude at perihelion when the object is only 11 degrees from the Sun. It will be even fainter when still far enough from the Sun to be easily observed.

 

As a faint (and presumably small) object, it is likely that C/2019 Y4 will disintegrate on its approach to perihelion. The comet has three things going against it. It is small, it makes a close approach to the Sun, and it is a cometary fragment. All three increase the likelihood that the object will fall apart. While not expected to be a bright object, C/2019 Y4 should be a very dynamic object and one worth keeping a constant eye (or detector) on for the next few months.

 

A/2019 Y5 – Pan-STARRS discovered this object on 2019 December 28. A number of pre-discovery observations were found back to September. This object came to perihelion back on 2019 August 18 at a distant 4.91 au when it peaked at 19th magnitude. Its orbital period is ~20,000 years.

 

2019 YJ6 – Pan-STARRS found 2019 YJ6 on December 30 at 21st magnitude. The object was also observed on four nights going back to last November. It is unclear why some objects get A/ designations while others, like 2019 YJ6, get regular asteroid designations. YJ6 is on a 233-year orbit with perihelion on 2020 June 7 at 2.56 au. It is unlikely to get any brighter than its discovery magnitude.

 

A/2020 A1 – The NEOWISE spacecraft in low Earth orbit detected this 21st magnitude inactive object on January 1. The object passed perihelion on 2019 December 3 at 1.67 au. Its orbit is retrograde with a 149-degree inclination. The MPC puts the object on a parabolic orbit while JPL has it on an elliptical orbit with a period of a few hundred years. It will peak in brightness this month at a faint 20th magnitude.

 

C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto) – This 11th magnitude comet was discussed above.

 

C/2020 A3 (ATLAS) – ATLAS discovered C/2020 A3 on January 3 at 19th magnitude with its Mauna Loa 1.0-m f/2 astrograph. Perihelion occurred back on 2019 June 26 at 5.76 au. The comet should slightly brighten to ~18th magnitude at its next opposition in March.

 

A/2020 B1 – This Pan-STARRS discovery from January 19 was at perihelion on December 25 at 1.75 au. Its orbital period is on the order of a few hundred years. It is unlikely to get much brighter than its current 22nd magnitude.

2020 BZ12 – Pan-STARRS discovered this object on January 19 at 21st magnitude. With a small perihelion distance of 0.60 au (T = 2020 April 26), 2020 BZ12 could, emphasis on “could”, become active and brighten rapidly. If it remains inactive, it will peak at magnitude 18.7 in mid-July when it approaches within 0.6 au of Earth.

 

2020 BF12 – This Centaur object was found by Pan-STARRS on January 25 at 22nd magnitude. It travels from between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn (q = 6.76 au) to just beyond Saturn (Q = 14.02 au) with an orbital period of 33.5 years.

 

As always, the Comet Section is happy to receive all comet observations, whether textual descriptions, images, drawings, magnitude estimates, or spectra. Please send your observations via email to < carl.hergenrother @ alpo-astronomy.org >.

- Carl Hergenrother (ALPO Comet Section Coordinator)


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#2 Simcal

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Posted 01 February 2020 - 03:12 PM

Thanks for sharing this. I've now bookmarked ALPO and will keep an eye on it. waytogo.gif



#3 Zorbathegeek

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Posted 01 February 2020 - 04:01 PM

Interesting thoughts on the dense stellar background possibly being a factor in the larger scatter for C/2017 T2 on the COBS site.

Thanks, Ray.



#4 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 01 February 2020 - 04:09 PM

Thanks for another great report! bow.gif



#5 Carl H.

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Posted 06 February 2020 - 12:59 PM

Update on C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto)

 

Recent observations of this comet show it to be ~1 magnitude brighter than predicted. I was able to observe the comet this morning around magnitude 10.0. It was located within a few degrees of Vega making it easy to find.

 

Feb. 06.54, 10.0, 2' (C. W. Hergenrother, Tucson, Arizona, 30x125 binoculars)

 

The Moon will become a problem soon. Hopefully this comet will still be bright in 2 weeks when the Moon exits the morning sky.


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#6 Aquarellia

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 11:48 PM

Thank you for this new fantastic report Carl.

 

Update on C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto)

 

Recent observations of this comet show it to be ~1 magnitude brighter than predicted. I was able to observe the comet this morning around magnitude 10.0. It was located within a few degrees of Vega making it easy to find.

 

Feb. 06.54, 10.0, 2' (C. W. Hergenrother, Tucson, Arizona, 30x125 binoculars)

 

The Moon will become a problem soon. Hopefully this comet will still be bright in 2 weeks when the Moon exits the morning sky.

 

Well, I tried one hour in the morning last night 7/2 just after the Moon light but without any success.  The limit magnitude in my field was +13.4 but I don't see any sign of C/2020 A2.  DC is maybe too low for my 250 Mewlon?.   So or some observers observe a burnout, or I make something wrong ?
Today with the full Moon, another attempt is impossible.
Suspense!

Michel


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#7 Carl H.

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Posted 08 February 2020 - 11:43 AM

Thank you for this new fantastic report Carl.

 

 

Well, I tried one hour in the morning last night 7/2 just after the Moon light but without any success.  The limit magnitude in my field was +13.4 but I don't see any sign of C/2020 A2.  DC is maybe too low for my 250 Mewlon?.   So or some observers observe a burnout, or I make something wrong ?
Today with the full Moon, another attempt is impossible.
Suspense!

Michel

Michel, I tried for C/2020 A2 again on the morning of the 7th. I wasn't convinced that I saw the comet.

 

While my detection on the 6th was faint, I am confident that I saw the comet that morning. The position given by Stellarium was off by a few arc minutes and my detection was not at the Stellarium position but the actual position as provided by the MPC and JPL Horizons (though I didn't know that till after I got back inside).

 

My non-detection on the 7th could be due to the comet being fainter or my sky conditions being worse. The transparency wasn't good with high cirrus and possible chimney smoke and exhaust trapped in the valley. My limiting magnitude for a 2' coma was around 10.2.

 

Perhaps the comet has experienced a short lived outburst. According to observations sent to COBS, the comet was fainter than ~11 only a few days ago.  

 

Too bad the Moon will keep us from visually seeing this comet again for awhile.


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#8 Carl H.

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Posted 13 February 2020 - 12:29 PM

I attempted to observe comets C/2017 T2 and C/2019 Y1 last evening. T2 was easily seen in 30x125s at magnitude 9.1. While slowly moving away from the Double Cluster, it was still close enough to be easily seen.

 

Feb. 13.10, m1= 9.1, Coma Diameter = 3', DC = 5 (C. W. Hergenrother, Tucson, Arizona, 30x125 binoculars)

 

As for C/2019 Y1, I attempted it after seeing recent COBS observations of it at magnitude 9.6 to 10.2. Unfortunately, it was in the direction of Tucson's sky glow and I was not successful. Y1 has been brightening at a fast clip since discovery, if it continues it may become a nice object over the coming weeks.


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#9 Aquarellia

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 03:07 AM

I attempted to observe comets C/2017 T2 and C/2019 Y1 last evening. T2 was easily seen in 30x125s at magnitude 9.1. While slowly moving away from the Double Cluster, it was still close enough to be easily seen.

 

Feb. 13.10, m1= 9.1, Coma Diameter = 3', DC = 5 (C. W. Hergenrother, Tucson, Arizona, 30x125 binoculars)

 

As for C/2019 Y1, I attempted it after seeing recent COBS observations of it at magnitude 9.6 to 10.2. Unfortunately, it was in the direction of Tucson's sky glow and I was not successful. Y1 has been brightening at a fast clip since discovery, if it continues it may become a nice object over the coming weeks.

Maybe because my West horizon is far from Tucson wink.gif ,Yesterday evening I had a very good sky and the chance to sketch the not so easy C/2029 Y1,

Here my observation : https://www.cloudyni...c2019-y1-atlas/

Michel


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#10 Vickx

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 02:50 PM

I was able to spot five comets last night using my 58×125 binoculars. The easiest is of course C/2017 T2 (PanSTARRS), second is C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) and third C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto). I was suprised that C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is also already visible. The hardest was C/2018 N2 (ASASSN).

Vic


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#11 Zorbathegeek

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 04:52 PM

That's amazing. There's definitely a Northern Hemisphere hegemony for 'bright' comets at the moment. 



#12 Carl H.

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 12:51 PM

I was able to spot five comets last night using my 58×125 binoculars. The easiest is of course C/2017 T2 (PanSTARRS), second is C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) and third C/2020 A2 (Iwamoto). I was suprised that C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is also already visible. The hardest was C/2018 N2 (ASASSN).

Vic

Vic, nice haul! Can you say anymore about C/2019 Y4? Coma size, brightness?

 

I imaged Y4 on Feb. 17.27 at mag 13.8 with a 4.4' coma. A number of submissions to the COBS site saw the comet as bright as magnitude 12 with a coma as large as 11'!

 

C/2019 Y4 is definitely running ahead of our earlier predictions. 



#13 Vickx

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Posted 24 February 2020 - 03:55 AM

As it was close to the limits of my BT125 I didn't take a proper estimation. Just quick&dirty brigtness: Feb 21.80 UT, m1=12.8:

I'm looking forward to see how it is evolved.

Vic



#14 Carl H.

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 04:36 PM

As it was close to the limits of my BT125 I didn't take a proper estimation. Just quick&dirty brigtness: Feb 21.80 UT, m1=12.8:

I'm looking forward to see how it is evolved.

Vic

Vic, you must have dark skies or great eyes. I'm lucky if I can see comets fainter than ~10.5 in my 30x125s. And that's only if I'm well dark adapted and the comets aren't in the southwest.




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