The charts below show positions calculated for 0h UT on the indicated dates from the latest osculating elements given in the Minor Planet Center's database. Star data are from the Hipparcos/Tycho databases. The selection of comets is mainly derived from the summary on the web site of the BAA Comet Section.
The charts are interactive to assist with magnitude estimation. There is further explanation at the bottom of this page.
next to a chart provides a link to a red-on-black version, for display while observing.
Messier and NGC objects are marked on the charts by small squares.
The time, T, of (the nearest) perihelion is given for each comet.
NEW 2014 Jan 26: Charts starting Feb 1 onwards have some new features:
- The interactive ephemeris data (in blue, when your mouse is near the comet's track) now include the phase, the angle between the vectors from the comet to the Sun and to the Earth.
- The deep sky objects (small black squares) no longer have NGC labels. It was a long job arranging them to avoid obscuring things. Only Messier objects are now labelled. It would be possible to further modify charts in future to show NGC labels interactively if anyone needs that.
A chart for any object at any one date & time can also be plotted from our "What's observable" applet, including comets not listed here.
NOTE: T = Date of Perihelion
Periodic comets, in numerical order
- 2P/Encke T = 2017 Mar. 17
- 2P/Encke 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 2P/Encke 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 2P/Encke 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann T = 2019 Mar. 7
- 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 41P/Tuttle-Giacobinni-Kresak T = 2017 Apr. 13
- 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 43P/Wolf-Harrington T = 2016 Aug. 19
- 43P/Wolf-Harrington 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 43P/Wolf-Harrington 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 43P/Wolf-Harrington 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova T = 2016 Dec. 31
- 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 81P/Wild T = 2016 Jul. 20
- 81P/Wild 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 81P/Wild 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 81P/Wild 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 144P/Kushida T = 2016 Aug. 30
- 144P/Kushida 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 144P/Kushida 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 144P/Kushida 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- 237P/LINEAR T = 2016 Oct. 11
- 237P/LINEAR 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- 237P/LINEAR 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- 237P/LINEAR 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
Other comets, in order of discovery
- C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) T = 2016 May 26
- C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- C/2011 KP36 (Spacewatch) 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- C/2013 X1 (Pan-STARRS) T = 2016 Apr. 20
- C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- C/2015 ER61 (Pan-STARRS) T =
- C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS) 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS) 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS) 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- C/2015 V2 (Johnson) T = 2017 Jun. 17
- C/2015 V2 (Johnson) 2016 Nov 1 - Dec 1
- C/2015 V2 (Johnson) 2016 Dec 1 - 2017 Jan 1
- C/2015 V2 (Johnson) 2017 Jan 1 - Feb 1
- C/2016 U1(NEOWISE) T = 2017 Jan. 14
- C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) 2016 Dec 1 - Dec 10
- C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) 2016 Dec 11 - Dec 20
- C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) 2016 Dec 21 - Dec 31
- C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) 2017 Jan 1 - Jan 10
- C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) 2017 Jan 11 - Jan 20
- C/2016 U1 (NEOWISE) 2017 Jan 21 - Jan 31
As you move the mouse over a chart certain data for the nearest star are displayed below it:
- Star id (Flamsteed/Bayer or H... Hipparcos or T... Tycho)
- V magnitude (+ "variable" if the star is variable in the Hipparcos/Tycho data)
- B - V (colour index; just a few stars do not have the data for this)
The id is given so that further information can be found elsewhere if desired.
V magnitude is given to enable visual comet magnitude estimation using the defocussing technique (see J.Shanklin, BAA Observing Guide to Comets, 2002).
B - V is given so that stars with a similar colour index to the Sun can be used. Dust comets are reflecting sunlight so comparison magnitudes need to be for similar stars. The Sun's B - V value is reckoned to be 0.66 (see David F. Gray, The inferred colour index of the Sun, 1992).
The chart also displays green boxes around the most Sun-like stars: those in the range 0.60 < B - V < 0.72.
If your mouse is nearer to a 0h UT point along the comet's track than to a star you will see some ephemeris data in blue.
If you print the chart you will not get the star data. The idea is that you select the stars you want and make a separate note of their characteristics, perhaps written on the print. However, if you save the whole page from your browser you should be able to view it from disc with the full interaction.
The interactivity is not yet in the red-on-black versions of the charts but that will come soon.