Interest Areas: Comets and Minor Planets


Comet Report - Summer 2018!

Posted on June 1, 2018

We have some comets to report for this season. It has been a long hiatus for comets during these last few years, but Comet C/2016 M1 (PanSTARRS)will be peaking close to 9.0 Magnitude by 1 July prior to its’ time of perihelion passage which will take place on 9 – 11 August 2018 at a distance of 2.2107 AU placing it within the Asteroid Belt. 66P/Du Toit is another potential although it is low in the southern skies and best observable before sunrise around nautical twilight. Comet 37P/Forbes will passing within 17 to 18 arcminutes of the Planet Neptune close to 13th Magnitude while the planet will be at visual magnitude 7.8 on the morning hours of 13 – 14 June between 5 – 5:30 am CDT. A Chart and ephemeris data for the comet is available during a two day period at 1 hour increments and due to the slow motion of Neptune I have the ephemeris data on its position J2000 Epoch every 4 hours with the exception of two times at 8 PM & 11 PM the night of 14 June.

Download the report and enjoy!

Professor Comet

Justin McCollum

New Professor Comet Report - April/May 2017

Posted on April 18, 2017


Comet 41P/Tuttle near spiral galaxy NGC 3198 on 14 March 2017 (Courtesy: Chris Schur)


Welcome to the Comet Report which is a monthly or seasonal article on the observations of comets by the amateur astronomy community and comet hunters from around the world! This article is dedicated to the latest reports of available comets for observations, current state of those comets, future predictions, & projections for observations in comet astronomy!

                                                                                   – Justin McCollum

New Updates on the Professor Comet Reports!

The new report is an update for the Spring Skies 2017 for April & May! New information and the latest on Comets 41P & C/2015 V2 Johnson along with another distinguishing comet for this early half of 2017: C/2017 E4 (Lovejoy) which was discovered by renown Australian comet hunter Terry Lovejoy on 9 March this year at a visual magnitude of 15.0. This comet is now being reported at visual magnitudes as high as 5.9 with the majority of the sighting giving a statistically average range of 6.0 – 7.0. Lovejoy has already passed it’s perigee passage around the same period as 41P with coma diameter of only 4 – 8 arcminutes; a significantly smaller size to that of the other two major comets! The comet is currently moving through the regions of Andromeda and Triangulum within only a few degrees of M31 & M33. Download the report for further details!

2017 Comet Report: Understanding Comets and the Prospects for this year!

This is a new version of the comet report and it focuses on the following concepts:

*Comets: What are they?

*Where do they come from?

*Understanding the Stucture & Nature of Comets.

*Knowing how to find them and analyze Comets.

*How to predict Comets and their prospects.

*Current Comets Available for Observations (Northern Hemisphere Astronomers).

*Prospects for the remaining year.

Earlier in the year we had the appearance of comet 45p/Honda – Mrkos – Pajdusakova which was the darling comet of the Late Winter months of 2017 visible in the early morning skies of the summer constellations (Capricornus, Aquarius, & Serpens) starting to rise from the daytime glare of the Sun! The comet has progressed westward towards the constellations of the Spring Skies (Hercules, Corona Borealis, Bootes, Coma Berenices, & Leo). 45P is now moving in a southerly path through the central regions of Leo and then southeastwards through the months of May & June. The comet once reaching a visual stellar magnitude of 6.39 with coma diameter of 60 arcminutes (two full Moons) has now faded to nearly 15th Magnitude. The other two major comets are now 41P/Tuttle – Giacobini – Kresak & C/2015 V2 (Johnson). 41P is currently a ‘circumpolar constellation’ moving westward or clockwise around the North Celestial Pole moving from Ursa Major (the region of the ‘Big Dipper’) to Draco! The comet has reached a maximum visual magnitude of 6.0 will below it’s predicted range of 5 – 5.5 with has been reduced to 5.5 – 6. It is in Draco where the comet approached the passage of perigee (time of closest distance to Earth), maximum visual brightness, and passage of perihelion (time of closet distance to the Sun) in a two – week period (31 March – 14 April). The comet is reported at reasonably bright magnitudes above 6.5 and will remain visible in the Spring and early Summer skies through the month of June with a coma diameter between averaging between 15 – 35 arcminutes at the low and 60 – 90 arcminutes at the high! The two different ranges may reflect the diameter ranges for the inner and outer coma’s respectfully! Finally the next comet is C/2015 V2 with resides in the NW region of Hercules starting from 19 February & ending on 25 April in which it moves along the Western edge of Hercules and through the Eastern region of Bootes to Virgo from May into Late June. Expect the comet to reach perihelion and perigee in a similar two week period with a projected maximum brightness of 6.5 during the time between the two events

To get continuous catchup on the major comets for 2017 click on the following links from skylive!

Comet 45P/Honda – Mrkos – Pajdusakova:

Comet 41P/Tuttle – Giacobini – Kresak:

Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson):

Comet C/2017 E4 (Lovejoy):

Professor Comet
2017 HAS Program Director
Justin McCollum

The Return of the Comet Report!

Posted on March 21, 2016

Hello To All Fellow HAS Members,

This is the official return of the Professor Comet Report after an 18 month hiatus. I have a backlog of 2014 and 2015 reports I will be releasing in the coming months as good reference materials for Comet Astronomy and the Study of Comets!

I have for all of you an official comet report on the approach of two comets approaching perigee with the Earth over three day period (20 - 23 March 2016) of comets 252P/LINEAR and P/2016 BA14 (PanSTARRS). These two comets are quite possibly the same object that could have undergone thesame gravitational stresses that forced the famous Shoemaker - Levy 9 to torn apart into a couple of dozen fragments!
Comet 252P/LINEAR (Courtesy of Jean Francois Soulier, France, 14 March 2016.)Comet P/2016 BA14 (PanSTARRS) (Courtesy of Jean Francois Soulier, France, 17 March 2016).
The top image is 252P/LINEAR and the bottom image is P/2016 BA14! Two images are Courtesy of Jean Francois Soulier of France who took these images on 14 & 18 March 2016 respectfully.
Comet 252P/LINEAR is not that big only 750 feet (230 meters) across while the size of P/2016 BA14 (PanSTARRS) is uncertain it is likely going to be a much smaller nucleus if it is a fragment of the LINEAR comet. The theory being that the two comets share very similar orbital parameters and come from the same area of the solar system in the domain of the planet Jupiter and are classified as Jovian or Jupiter Comets!

I am releasing a Powerpoint and pdf version of the report, but there is a wonderful animated gif using the JPL Solar System small body browser of the two comets approaching and departing Earth over the time period of 1 March to 1 April. This animated gif does not exist in the pdf version only a snapshot! However, the pdf version is only available on this website. I will also have the ppt version available or I can send anyone just the animated gif! You can reach me at [email protected](link sends e-mail) to obtain the ppt version or the animated gif.

I hope everyone enjoys it and I have a backlog of 2014 and 2015 reports that I plan to publish as good reference reports to study in learning more about comets and comet sciences!

Note to Everyone: The PDF, PPT (Powerpoint), and the separate Animated Gif are all now available on the HAS Forum! Just look for the Comets and Minor Planets thread where I have starred a new discussion! If you have not signed up for the HAS forum here is a good time to do so, but as a paid up member.


Professor Comet

Justin J McCollum


Posted on August 1, 2014

Hello Fellow Astronomers,

It has been a long time since the last Professor Comet Report, but there is a new one on what is available to see in the Late Summer skies of 2014 and what is coming for the rest of this year!

I have changed the format as a pretext for future comet reports and I have included information on the ESA/NASA mission to comet 67P/Churyumov - Gerasimenko which is the Rosetta spacecraft which is now undergoing orbital insertion of the comet's nucleus during the period of 3 - 6 August with the expectation of the Phliae lander expect to land on the nucleus's surface on the scheduled date of 10 November 2014! There will be more information to come with a more thorough comet report hopefully in the next 1 - 2 weeks! Read over and enjoy!

Professor Comet
2014 ADAY Coordinator
Justin McCollum

209P/LINEAR Meteor Shower 2014!

Posted on May 20, 2014

Hello Fellow Astronomers,

Comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS is undergoing a surprise outburst with a dust tail slightly visible under averted vision. The tail has a fan shape with one end being the dust tail and other the ion tail that is very narrow, but stretches over a length of the sky great than the width of a perigee Moon. It is currently moving parallel with the 'crooked arm' of the Big Dipper heading in a westward direction while residing in the northern region of Canes Venatici until early - mid May! The comet will eventually move WSW to SW thru the feet of the Ursa Major by the end of May and then thru Leo just west of 'The Sickle' an asterism of Leo in its Western region by mid to late July. Currently the comet can be found on the meridian between 11:30 pm and midnight CDT. Right now the comet originally predicted to be around mid-9th magnitude with observations placing it between 9 to 9.3. However, myself and two other astronomers at the George Observatory last Saturday night observed in both a 10" and 18" newtonian telescopes and it appears much brighter against the Houston light dome. I would say it is currently at 7th magnitude, but its original light curve would not place it at a maximum brightness of Magnitude 6.0 until September, but if this keeps up then it could get as bright as 4th magnitude if it maintains the general properties of its light curve. However, it could fade out if this is just an outburst even though it is a couple of months away from reaching perihelion.

Some other good news it appears that comets C/2014 E2 Jacques & C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden are now predicted to be brighter than visual magnitudes of 4.0 and 5.0 respectfully. C/2014 E2 Jacques is now moving through the constellation of Monoceros and will continue moving deeper into the constellations of the 'Winter Hexagon' thru late July! There peak brightness will occur during the month of July for comet Jacques and will continue to be brighter than 6th magnitude through at least September when it is between Hydra and Monoceros moving SW until it is lost to observers in the northern hemisphere by the first week of November. Comet Oukaimeden will peak at 5th magnitude during the month of September while speeding across the constellations of the Spring Sky very quickly from the central region of Monoceros at the beginning of that month heading eastward towards the eastern tail end of Hydra to the far ESE of Corvus before month's end.

All three of these comets will be morning objects at there peak brightness in the few hours before the end of nautical twilight! Catch comet PanSTARRS while you can it moving westwards at roughly two full moons a day. It will still be visible for all of this month, but it will be about 13.461 degrees west of the meridian by 9 pm CDT. After that it will be more difficult to observe it as it moves further towards to the setting sun and by July 1 to see in night time skies look towards due west as the Sickle of Leo is beginning to set by 9 pm the comet will have an altitude of 20deg 21min above the horizon to the WNW. It will be visible again around 6 am in early September low in the sky due E and just east of the head of Hydra!

Another possible comet I am now watching over in the forecasts for visibility is there is a small possibility of this comet reaching 5th magnitude in November of this year while it is moving eastward towards Leo and undergoing retrograde motion at the back end of the constellation through May 2015!

More Details Later!

Also check out a new meteor shower predicted the weekend around the start of TSP 2014. Comet 209P/LINEAR will be passing near the orbit of the Earth reaching perigee around the end of this month while moving south of the plane of the ecliptic (plane of the Earth's orbit). It is spewing out a tail of debris that will move upwards towards the northern ecliptic hemisphere and the Earth will pass through this debris trail at it's eastern end. The material will likely come from the comet's anti - tail with meteoroids reaching sizes above 1 mm. It could produce a heavy meteor shower with a ZHR predicted between 200 - 450. Meaning lots of meteors, but the radiant which is the point at which all meteors diverge from signifying the direction of the comet's path will lie in the constellation of Camelopardalis at a declination of 79 degrees making this a circumpolar meteor shower! Based on the data collected so far the prediction is that there will be no build up to this meteor shower it will occur the morning of 24 May starting from 1:30 am CST through sunrise. After that nothing else! This is expected to be a one night, once in a lifetime major meteor shower, hopefully!

I hope everyone gets a chance to see it, the Moon will only be a waning crescent at 20% of a full illuminated disk and will not rise above the Eastern horizon until about 3:43:49 AM CDT!

There is now a pdf file with basic and detailed information on the meteor shower predicted for Comet 209P/LINEAR for the morning of 24 May 2014! Download and enjoy searching for those meteorites! Hopefully we will all have a great meteor shower to watch the morning of Saturday, 24 May!

Professor Comet
Justin McCollum

A Relatively quiet Comet Season so far!

Posted on March 5, 2014

Hello to All,

2014 is turning out to be a very quiet year for comets as of early March! There is not too much to report since we are in midst of a relatively quiescence period for comets with the exception of two 8th magnitude comets that appear near the constellation of Ophiuchus C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) and C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) with LINEAR now last reported at visual magnitude 7.8 as of 22 Feb where as C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) which was originally as bright as 4.7 between its perigee and perihelion passages.

Both comets will continue to fade throughout the spring with no other prospects with the exception of some unexpected discoveries of any new non - periodic comets or unexpected outbursts of some known comet. Looking further down the year 2014 the prospects and predictions for bright comets are looking poor. There are only two possibilities: C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) and C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) both are predicted to be no brighter than 6th magnitude. C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) should reach at least 6th magnitude by mid - September while moving eastwards between the constellations of Hydra and Antlia, but it is visible at peak visual magnitude during the morning hours before dawn during the late summer/early autumn. C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) will also reach a peak visual magnitude of 6.0 during the month of November while moving W to WNW between the constellations of Pictor to Sculptor, but it will be very close to the southern horizon, so it will be challenge for observers even in the southern United States.

I do apologize for not realizing a comet report for Jan or Feb, but the state of observable comets above visual magnitude 11.0 or 12.0 is very poor with only 7 - 9th magnitude comets being the best to offer for amateur astronomers for visual observations for most of 2014. There will be quarterly comet reports for 2014 with the next one coming out early in March with the prospect for bimonthly or monthly comet reports returning as the prospect for observable comets improve or unexpected discoveries or outbursts of known comets.

When the first comet report for 2014 is released I will make it known too all via the netslyder and website!

Professor Comet
Justin McCollum

Special Comet Report - Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)

Posted on November 22, 2013

Hello Fellow HAS members,

The Comet ISON report I gave at last months meeting is ready to be reviewed and downloaded for all of you to read and enjoy! It covers all of the material that was presented in the meeting with additional information and features that are expected in a regular monthly or bi - monthly report! It is an extensive comet report that spans from the history of the Russian Academcy of Science, ISON network, Sungrazer Comets, Oort cloud origin, morphology of the comet's features, photometry & spectra graphs and data, projections, data tables, finder charts, etc.. The report is 68 pages long, but it does have a table of contents to assist you in guiding through the report where ever you need to go to or for information you wish to discover about the comet! Updates about the comet for the month of November of 2013 and projections of it's fate thru the end of the this is presented in this report. I will let the report speak for itself and not spoil too much on it's makeup and composition. I hope you enjoy it and if you have any comments and suggestions for improvement feel free to contact me at [email protected]!

Due to the limits of file size I can not uploaded to the website, so I refer all of you to the HNAC/Professor Comet URL webpage:

Professor Comet Report - Autumn 2013

Posted on October 8, 2013

The newest comet report is ready for Autumn 2013 which encompasses the whole month of October concentrating on the latest information of three comets: C/2012 S1 (ISON), C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy), and 2P/Encke. No comet report for the month of September was available due to the lack of observable comets either too faint for naked eye observations, lost in the daytime glare, or visible only in the skies of the southern hemisphere.

Summer 2013 Comet Report!

Posted on July 23, 2013

Read up on the latest Professor Comet report for the Summer 2013 which is now available online! The forward synposis on the report give a more elaborate explaination on the latest situation and future outcomes for comet ISON in the near future. More info will be posted as time progresses.

Late Spring 2013 - Professor Comet Report!

Posted on June 7, 2013

The Professor Comet report for this month covers just two comets: C/2012 F6 (LEMMON) and C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) which are both now high up in the northern celestial skies and continue to show impressive features for observers wanting to catch those fine details under very dark skies including the visibility of the 'Anti - Dust tail' of comet PanSTARRS now spiking in front of the coma opposite from its' trek towards the outer solar system! Comet LEMMON is now progressing further from the Sun along a similar trek towards the outer solar system but also very high above the plane of the ecliptic much like C/2011 L4 as both comets head back towards their origin of the Oort Cloud! The eccentricity of both comets defines their orbital path thru the solar system as hyperbolic trajectories, but both comets will not be ejected out into interstellar space rather they will stay far outside the outer regions of Kuiper Belt and not return for a very long time. Comet C/2012 F6 will not visible in the skies of Earth again for another estimated 8 000 years while it will be another ~106 000 years before C/2011 L4 will be visible again. Many comets, but not all that are non - periodic in nature take centuries to millions of years before returning in slightly different trajectories towards the Sun and yet there are a few that end up being ejected out of the solar system entirely becoming interstellar ophans indefinitely!

This report does not focus on C/2012 S1 (ISON) more updated information will be available in next month's report. Right now the comet based on a preliminary analysis of its' orbital elements by Astronomers and NASA scientists is showing similar features to the 'Great Comet' of 1680! However, it could be just a large piece of that comet since the Great Comet of 1680 or Kircher's Comet has a 10 year periodic orbit while C/2012 SI is on a ejection trajectory, so this comet of the ISON survey is a one time observation period for all of future history! If the data holds out, then three certain things could happen: first it could produce a naked - eye visible tail that could stretch across an extremely large area of the sky (45 degrees or more) and a daytime object, second the comet will produce an amazing meteor shower since we will be crossing its' path the night of 12 Jan 2014 and lasting for several days afterwards, and third if the dust is very fine in its' composition then another phomenon will occur 'noctilucent clouds' which that form 50 miles above the sky! This phomenon will result in electric blue clouds forming high above the sky after sunset creating a mystical glow for night time observers, but ISON could become another disappointment like Comet Kohoutek of 1973 which was labelled the Great Comet of the Century, but turned out to be a spectacular disappointment! The comet right now is crossing the orbit of Jupiter and is extremely bright for such an object hundreds of millions of miles from the Sun with an estimated of the nucleus size between 1 - 10 km in size. However, the comet still maintains a brightness of 15.5 in visual magnitude which it has maintained for a few months, so it appears to be a point of plateau for its' brightness and unless that changes by mid summer then ISON could end up the same great disappointment as Comet Kohoutek of 1973! Only time will tell, but by late Summer the fate of the comet will be better understood!

Professor Comet Report - Early Spring 2013!

Posted on April 16, 2013

More details will be available for the observable comets that will be available for Spring 2013 in the May report!

The Definitive Professor Comet Report (Late Winter 2013)

Posted on March 1, 2013

The 'Professor Comet Report' for the late Winter of 2013 is now posted online! It is a definitive guide for any astronomer at any level for all of the information needed to go look for, scan the skies, and observe Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS)! There is a table of contents, graphs, spreadsheets of data, listing of orbital events, finder charts, tracking charts, images, synopsis, etc. in one of the most complex works I have ever authored. Will you find hopefully everything you need to find comet C/2011 L4 when it appears along the western horizon from 12 March when it appears in the low western horizon after sunset thru 8 June when it passes to within just 4 degrees of Polaris and pass thru the tail of Ursa Minor 'Little Bear' and home to the famous asterism 'The Little Dipper! There is also future projections and finder charts for next big comet later on in the year C/2012 S1 (ISON) come the autumn and early winter 2013! I have also included an extra page on the brief history of C/2011 L4 and the PanSTARRS survey with its' first out of four planned telescopes: 1.8m RC PS 1 Prototype telescope.

Feel free to download this report and use it thoroughly for all the evenings nights in March and April when looking for C/2011 L4 or any other comet worthy of observation for the general public that is now in the report! Comments and suggestions are equally appreciated (constructive only).

Professor Comet Report - Winter 2013!

Posted on January 17, 2013

The Winter Comet Report for 2013 is here and ready for all to download and study! Happy New Year from your Professor Comet!!!!

This comet report is the most elaborate I have done so far with about eleven comets brighter than 12th magnitude up in the celestial heavens right now and two still lost in the daytime glare of the Sun! We have the potential for three great comets to observe for this new year: C/2012 F6 (LEMMON), C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS), and of course the possible 'BIG ONE' C/2012 S1 ISON. Comet ISON is currently passing thru the region of Jupiter's orbit and will within a matter of months be with us in the inner solar system for it's closet approach (about ~3.2 solar diameters) to the Sun's photosphere and will be moving thru the multimillion degree Corona although no were near as close as the record breaking flyby of C/2011 W3 Lovejoy at 87,000 mi (139,983 km) back on 16 December 2011!

This report has an array of predicted charts of the paths of a couple of comets including the three big ones plus C/2012 K5 (LINEAR) which is the only comet up right now brighter than 11th magnitude for astronomers to observe during the night skies after dusk and before dawn! There are also several tables on ephemeris data, prediction graphs on brightness and solar elongations, images, and whole lot more so I hope you enjoy this report.

There will be constant updates on the situation with C/2012 S1 (ISON) as new field reports and photometry reading along with other scientific data becomes available!

Science Hobbyists Needed for a National Study

Posted on December 27, 2012

This may be of interest to some club members:

Are you a science hobbyist? We need your help with a new National Science Foundation sponsored research study that will investigate the characteristics and educational experiences of people who are active in science hobbies. More and more people are engaging in science hobbies; schools and science centers would like to know more about the characteristics of science hobbyists and how these organizations might better support hobbyists’ networking and education.

What will happen if you take part in the study? The information gained from this research can help science educators and researchers understand how to better teach science in schools and museums, and how to design better community-based science programs. Participation in this study is voluntary. Information you provide will be anonymous. If you complete the survey, you may elect to enter a drawing for a $100 Target gift card.

Survey Link:

Dr. Gail Jones
North Carolina State University

Comets of the Late Autumnal Sky!

Posted on December 10, 2012

Please look towards the latest edition of the Professor Comet report now posted on the HAS website! The Comet of greatest interest is C/2012 K5 (LINEAR) now moving thru the northern edge of 'The Big Dipper' asterism of the circumpolar constellation Ursa Major (Great Bear) from 6 - 23 December and passing by Muscida 'The Nose of the Bear' the evening of 27 December 2012! Also observe 168P/Hergenrother before it gets too faint as it moves eastwards across the 'hind legs of Pegasus' primary asterism of Andromeda moving closely and north of the 'Great Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31)' between the evenings of 19 - 23 December 2012!


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