Jasper Dark Sky Festival

Keeping Up With Comet Catalina

Now’s the time to enjoy the latest binocular comet.

Peach-Comet Catalina-2015-12-08

U.K. imager Damian Peach captured this view of Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) on December 8. Sadly, the comet’s two tails show up well only in photographs.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a comet bright enough to be viewed in binoculars, but the wait is over. Say hello to Comet Catalina (also known as C/2013 US10).

Comet Catalina Path

Comet Catalina’s position is plotted for 11:30 p.m., EST. Click on the chart for a full-size version.

December 30, 2015 update: Comet Catalina is continuing to hang in at about magnitude 6.3. SkyNews contributing editor, Ken Hewitt-White, viewed the comet with 7×50 binoculars at 4 a.m. on December 30 from his darkened dining-room window in Chilliwack, British Columbia. “The comet, a few degrees below Arcturus, was easy to locate. It appeared small, round, bright in the middle, but tail-less. However, it was bigger and easier to detect (despite the moonlight) than when I last saw it in mid-December,” Ken reports.

December 16, 2015 update: We’re approaching one of the comet’s prime observing windows. SkyNews contributing editor Ken Hewitt-White was able to spot it from his backyard in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and writes: “It was fairly easy to see in my 7×50 binoculars, looking like a slightly fainter version of M13. Two stars stood one degree to the left (east-northeast) of the comet — the more northerly 6.2-magnitude star seemed perhaps a bit brighter than the comet, and the southerly 6.8-magnitude star was definitely fainter. I’d say the comet was about magnitude 6.3 or 6.4. In my 4.25-inch scope at 27× Catalina was small and spherical but bright and delicately diffuse. No tail was clearly visible in my sky conditions, though I kept thinking I could detect just a hint of one. At 72×, the comet was big, pleasingly bright, and noticeably condensed toward the middle — rather like the way a compact, unresolved globular cluster appears in a small scope at low power.”

December 6, 2015 update: The comet’s position in the morning sky is improving and its brightness appears to be holding steady at about magnitude 6.5. SkyNews associate editor Alan Dyer viewed the comet this morning from Quailway Cottage near Portal, Arizona. He writes, “The comet was just visible in small binoculars as a fuzzy spot. In my photo (below), its two tails, ion and dust tail, are just visible in the bright moonlit sky (the waning crescent Moon was well above Venus this morning). Still, the comet is not as bright or obvious in binoculars as I’d hoped!”

Dyer-Comet Catalina and Venus, December 6.

Comet Catalina and the planet Venus as imaged by Alan Dyer on the morning of December 6, 2015.

The comet was discovered on October 31, 2013, by researchers working on the Catalina Sky Survey, a project designed to find comets and asteroids that might come close enough to Earth to pose a collision hazard. When C/2013 US10 was picked up, it was still inbound on its way to the inner solar system. It reached perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on November 15, 2015. Since then has been slowly heading northward as it returns to the icy outer reaches of the solar system.

Observing from his home in Chilliwack, British Columbia, SkyNews contributing editor Ken Hewitt-White spotted the comet on November 30 with his 4¼-inch reflector telescope. “In the finderscope I could see Kappa Virginis rising over my neighbour’s roof — the comet was supposed to be just below that star,” Ken reports. “I aimed the scope at Kappa, dropped down a bit, and — bingo — there it was! Not much to see: just a fuzz with no tail.”

The comet passed closest to our planet on January 17, but was more than 100 million kilometres away — no need to worry about a collision! Enjoy the show while you can. Comet Catalina has a one-way ticket out of the solar system. After this visit, it’ll be on its way to interstellar space, never to be seen again.

At SkyNews we welcome your photos and observations. You can share them with us by e-mailing dickinsonSkyNews@gmail.com.

Categories: Comets and Asteroids
4 comments on “Keeping Up With Comet Catalina
  1. Tom Price says:

    Thank you for publishing information on this comet. It carries my mothers first name and my youngest daughter middle name, Catalina. I plan on following.

  2. kevin says:

    my canon 18x50mm image stabilized binoculars easily picked out comet catalina before going to work on thursday december 10 at 5:15 a.m,like an unresolved globular cluster ! kevin b.

  3. kevin belcher says:

    another comet view before going to work this morning on tues jan.5 ,canon 18×50 image stabilized showed a bigger fuzzball than the dec 10 view,nice waning crescent moon with crisp details to go with the crispy cold winter, made for a pleasant work day ahead,kevin belcher

  4. Ethel Griswold says:

    We have been watching since we spotted it ten days ago. We see it through the naked eye no problem in the southeast sky in Regina Sk.. Of course in exception of when there is cloud cover.It is very fascinating . We live at Marian Garden condo,s and there is more than us following its journey.Thanks for you comments and others it is even what you would call exciting.Keep with us on its journey

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