Interest Areas: Comets and Minor Planets


The New Professor Comet Report is ready!

Posted on October 29, 2012

The Comets of the Mid Autumn 2012!

Look towards the night sky!

Vere upward towards the constellations of Pegasus (The Winged Horse of Perseus) and Andromeda (daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus 'both Queen & King respectfully of Aethiopia in Ancient Times)!

See the comet 168P/Hergenrother now moving northward past the 'Great Square' of Pegasus and into the western region of the constellation of Andromeda from late October and well into January of next year. Right now the comet is visible between mid 9th & mid 10th magnitude as it lies above in the meridian through the autumnal season and remains visible for most of the winter months well into February. There is also updates concerning two other comets C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS and C/2012 S1 ISON! These two comets are expected to be the prime comets for next year with this PanSTARRS comet making its debut as a possible visual magnitude object of 0.0 in the Spring night skies of 2013 and then C/2012 S1 ISON possibly getting as bright as Venus during the late Autumn 2013 through mid Winter 2014!

Stay Tuned for futher details!

Late Summer & Early Autumal Comet Report 2012!

Posted on September 16, 2012

The comet report for the Late Summer and Early Autumn of 2012 is now posted on the website for all to see and download!

Additional Synopsis with supplemental updates will posted at a later date! Stay tuned for later information and continuing updates!

Comets of the Mid Summer Season!

Posted on July 25, 2012

Look to the new 'Professor Comet' report now posted on the club's website! 96P/Machholz 1 is only comet visible right now which is brighter than 10th magnitude, but visible only for a few hours after sunset and located low in the southwestern sky from mid summer thru late Autumn. Go to and scroll down on the archives menu for 14 July 2012 to observe the comet recorded as a video clip from the Coronagraphs on board the NASA/ESA SOHO spacecraft as the comet approached to within 0.120 AU of the Sun as reached nearly 2nd magnitude in apparent brightness!

"Check back for more details sometime next week!!!"

If you wish to go the direct webpage to see the SOHO video clip of Machholz 1, then click on this URL for the Spaceweather "TIME MACHINE": for more information!


Comets for the Summer Season!

Posted on May 30, 2012

2012 holds little in the way of bright comets for this upcoming Summer season! Comet Garradd C/2009 P1 still lies in the constellation of Cancer and will soon be lost in the sunshine glare of dusk by mid to late June. All other comets are fading or will not approach magnitude brightness values greater than 13th until possible mid to late Autumn season. You can still catch Garradd about 1 hr 45 min to 90 minutes after dusk when it is still 30 degrees above the horizon when one is not looking at the comet through a column of air twice the mass and depth with respect to looking at objects at or around the sky zenith along the celestial meridian! There are two other comets stay show some promise for the mid to late Summer (June and August); 96P/Comet Machholz 1 when it could reach maximum magnitude brightness range of 7 - 8 and then there is the recently discovered comet from the LINEAR survey C/2012 K5 from the published results of the Lincoln Laboratory NEAR project during the evening of 25 May 2012! The orbital elements of the comet where calculated by the IAU - Minor Planet Center on 29 May 2012 at 0.04389 TT (Terrestrial Time) or 01:02:09.9 UTC. The comet will graze along the northern edge of 'The Big Dipper' for most of December 2012 and could reach a maximum predictability possible magnitude brightness of 6.42 the evenings of 30 - 31 Dec 2012 when it is at a maximum angular size of 22.1' or about 51.8% the size of an average Full Moon! In this future time period the comet will approach the Earth to a perigee of 0.31 AU or a distance of nearly 28.8 million miles(46.34 million km); less than 1% the nearest distance between the planet Mercury and the Sun!

In the future there will be more weekly updates not only on comets, but on the latest news on Asteroids, other kinds of minor planets and NEOs! Also any update information of Robotic missions to the Comets, Asteroids, and other minor planets will be included on this webpage! Stay Tuned!

Professor Comet - Comets of the 2012 Spring Sky!

Posted on April 10, 2012

Comet Garradd is continuing to be the primary comet for observers of the northern hemisphere for the spring season of 2012! Currently, the comet is moving southward across the western region of Ursa Major 'The Big Bear home to the famous stellar asterism known as 'The Big Dipper'. The comet is heading out of the domain of the terrestrial planets and longs to return to the Outer Solar System on a destination to the frigid realms of the Kuiper Belt. During this time and for the rest of April the comet will continue past the last pair of stars known for the triple set 'the leaps of the Gazelle'. These stars represent the toes of the great bear and appear as the foot prints of a gazelle escaping from 'the Hunting Dogs' known as the constellation of Canes Venatici which resides to the east of Ursa Major and appear to be chasing both the big bear and the gazelle! Three leaps are known by the following pairs: Alula stars ('first leap' in Arabic), Tania stars('second leap' in Arabic), and the Talitha stars ('third leap' in Arabic); for each pair there is a Borealis and Australis. An example would be the 'third leap' where we have Talitha Borealis and Talitha Australis. Comet Garradd will continue past the Talitha stellar pair around mid - April and continue southward into the eastern tail of Lynx 'the wild feline for the rest of April!

The latest observations place C/2009 P1 Garradd at 7th magnitude with only the dust tail faintly visible to binoculars in very dark skies! Garradd will only get fainter and move further towards the western horizon as it fades to 14th magnitude and be completely lost in the daytime glare before the end of June. As for other hopeful targets to look for in the near future, a promising 96P/Machholz 1 expected to reach 7th magnitude by the month of July and continue to remain visible thru the month of August while residing close to Virgo at dusk while low in the western skies. The other possible target is a product of the PanSTARRS survey from Hawaii; C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS expected to be the 'the Great Comet of 2013 with a predicted brightness of magnitude 0 when the comet reaches a perihelion of only 0.3 AU during the early days of mid - March 2013. However, the present orbital elements for this comet will have it lost completely in the daytime glare during the time when it reaches both perigee and perihelion with it appearing again in the morning skies before dusk, but fainter than 9th magnitude! These predicted events can change especially in the case for C/2011 L4, so come back for further details and any new updates especially for unexpected discoveries and unforeseen outbursts!

Professor Comet Reports

Posted on February 8, 2012

The comet reports mainly covers the changes and contains the latest information on the brightest comets visually observable either with the naked eye or through a small thru moderate - size telescopes! It covers all comets 13.5 visual magnitude and brighter with ephemeris data for the major comets expected to be brighter than the 8 - 10 V Mag range, finder charts, terminology tables with appropriate definitions, images, understanding of DC (degree of condensation) classification system, and other such important facts and figures!

For the month of March the report focused mainly on Comet C/2009 P1 Garrradd as it begins to progress towards its' highest location in the night sky in the general area of the northern, circumpolar constellations especially around the constellation regions of Ursa Minor and Draco. There many maps of the comet as it moves eastward when viewing towards the north from 'the Little Dipper' towards Ursa Major; home to 'the Big Dipper'! All other comets during this time of year have faded to visual magnitude values of 10.5 or dimmer! There is a small report on the recent discovery of Comet C/2012 C2 Bruenjes discovered on Feb 11 more than two weeks before discovery when it approached to within 0.2 AU of the Earth back on Jan 27! The comet never did get brighter than 10th magnitude and now will be lost in the daytime glare on the Spring Sun!

Enjoy the report and give me feedback as to how I can improve on future comet reports for all amateur astronomers!


Mr. Justin J McCollum
BS, MS Physics
Professor Comet
HAS Novice Meeting Coordinator


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