Try for Comet Catalina this weekendIt’s up before dawn, a small fuzzy patch of light in binoculars. On the morning of December 7, the comet will appear near a spectacular display of the moon and Venus!
Comet Catalina images taken December 4, 2015 by Doug Durig. Here, you can see some detail in the comet’s tail …
UPDATE DECEMBER 4, 2015: We’re beginning to see more photos of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) as it has gradually pulled away from the sunrise. But it still requires optical aid to be seen. Some observers have reported that the comet is becoming visible in binoculars. If you have not seen Comet Catalina, search for a first glimpse at this celestial visitor in the mornings ahead. Using binoculars, the comet should appear as a small fuzzy patch of light in your predawn sky. A small telescope show a hint of its two tails. Using a telescope, the tails may be seen very faint, and are a lot easier to see using a camera, as it captures more light and details than the human eye.
The big news is that Comet Catalina will be near the planet Venus and the moon on the morning of December 7, 2015. On that morning, Venus and the moon will appear very spectacular in the east before dawn. From parts of North America, the moon will cover over, or occult, Venus on the morning of December 7. Click into the “important dates” section below to learn more about Comet Catalina! And check back to this post periodically. We’ll provide updates.
When and where should I begin to look?
What will Comet Catalina look like?
Here are some important dates
When is the next predicted comet visible to the eye alone?
Greg Hogan submitted this photo to EarthSky. It’s Comet Catalina on December 4, 2015. Thanks, Greg!
This video from YouTube user “tamekich” shows comet Catalina as seen from Japan on November 25,2015.
View larger. | Michael Jaeger shared this amazing picture of Comet Catalina with EarthSky. He captured this photo from Austria on November 24 and wrote: “I see a faint third tail between the two (main) tails.”
An image taken by Douglas T. Durig this morning – November 23, 2015 – at Cordell-Lorenz Observatory in Sewanee, Tennessee. Notice the two tails. Visit the comets and animations page from Cordell-Lorenz Observatory.
November 22 capture of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) by Chris Schur from Payson, Arizona. 90-second exposure. Chris caught this image a few minutes before dawn brightness interfered. Through a telescope, the twin tails are clearly seen. Visit Chris’ astrophotography page.
View larger. | November 20, 2015 capture of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) by Ajay Talwar in India. This is the first capture of the comet we saw, after it had rounded the sun, when it emerged into the predawn sky. Visit Ajay’s astrophotography pages at ajaytalwar.com and aperturetelescopes.com.
View larger. | Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) on October 1, 2015 by José J. Chambó (cometografia.es).
View larger. | Photo of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) by Efraín Morales of the Astronomical Society of the Caribbean. This photo was taken last August, 2015.
When and where should I begin to look? In December, Comet Catalina is located in the direction east – the direction of sunup – before the sun rises. Be aware … this is not just a one-night event, or even a one-week event. The comet will be in our predawn sky throughout the month.
As the New Year begins, the comet will remain in our skies. Although it’ll still be visible in the predawn skies in January, 2016, the celestial visitor will gradually become a night sky object.
Remember … the comet is moving slowly across our sky’s dome. Below you’ll find some charts that should help you find it, when it comes into view. Or check out this chart from skyandtelescope.com.
By the way, be sure to go to a dark site, away from city lights. At first, try using binoculars … then remove the binoculars, and try to see the comet with your eye alone.
December 5, 2015. 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise, local time. Illustration: Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium
December 6, 2015. 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise, local time. Illustration: Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium
What will Comet Catalina look like? Recent observations show the comet has developed a tail some 500,000 miles (800,000 km) long! Thus – in December, 2015 – binoculars are likely to show a short tail of this comet, while small telescopes will provide a nice view.
While observing visually with a telescope, you will not see the green color of the comet, as shown some photos. That color is mainly seen in pictures of this comet, and many comets. Cameras are more sensitive than the human eye and after a few seconds or minutes of exposure, they provide very good views of the colors that exist in comets.
But visual observers using telescopes in December, 2015, might be able to glimpse a hint of Comet Catalina’s green coma or cometary atmosphere.
And, by the way, the green color we see in comets is from gases like diatomic carbon.
December 7, 2015, 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise. Comet Catalina will be close to Venus and the waning moon on this date. Illustration: Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium
December 8, 2015, 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise. Another opportunity to glimpse the comet near the waning moon. No one knows if the comet will be visible to the eye by this date, so binoculars should come in handy. Illustration: Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium
Here are some important dates.
October 31, 2013. The Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona discovered a comet, later called C/2013 US10 (Catalina). At first, astronomers thought it was a rocky or metallic asteroid, but further observations confirmed it as an icy comet.
November 15, 2015. Comet Catalina is at perihelion or closest to the sun. It will not become as close to the sun as some comets do. At closest approach to our star, the comet will be moving between the orbits of planets Earth and Venus. Its perihelion distance is 0.82 AU from the sun (1 AU = 1 Earth-sun distance). Comet Catalina is traveling at a speed of 103,000 miles per hour (166,000 km/h) relative to the sun at perihelion.
November 23 to 30,2015. Comet Catalina starts to become visible for Northern Hemisphere observers.
December 7,2015. Sky show! Comet visible close to Venus and the waning moon. See the chart above and think photo opportunity.
December 31,2015. Comet approaching the apparent position of the star Arcturus on our sky’s dome. Another good photo opportunity.
January 1,2016. Comet Catalina will be passing very close to star Arcturus. An excellent reference to finding the comet in the sky!
January 17,2016. Comet Catalina will pass some 110 million kilometers (68 million miles) from Earth. That’s very, very far from Earth – hundreds of times farther than the moon’s distance. So there is no danger of a collision. That said, let’s talk about the size of the comet’s nucleus or core. Some estimates indicate the nucleus of Comet Catalina ranges between 4 and 20 kilometers in diameter.
January 1, 2016, from 2 a.m. to sunrise, local time. The comet will be very near the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. Photo opportunity!
When is the next predicted comet visible to the eye alone? The next predicted comet that may be reach visibility to the unaided eye – and be really easy to spot – is Comet 46P/Wirtanen. It will appear as a sky gift for Christmas of 2018.
Although Comet 46P may show a magnitude of 3 or 4, there is always the possibility that a newly found comet will provide a good celestial show prior to that time.
Meanwhile, C/2013 US10 (Catalina) may still be our Christmas celestial present for 2015.
The trajectory of this visitor from the Oort cloud suggests that after closest approach to the inner solar system, comet Catalina will be ejected and we will never see this comet again.
Bottom line: Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) is now visible in binoculars, in December, 2015. When and where to look, what to expect, some important dates to remember.
Thanks to: http://earthsky.org