Comet Jacques Is Back! Joins Venus and Mercury at Dawn

by Bob King on July 12, 2014

Will you see it? Comet Jacques will pass about 3.5 degrees north of brilliant Venus tomorrow morning July 13. This map shows the sky facing northeast about 1 hour before sunrise. Stellarium

Will you see it? Comet Jacques will pass about 3.5 degrees north of brilliant Venus tomorrow morning July 13. This map shows the sky facing northeast about 1 hour before sunrise when the comet will be 10° high in the northeastern sky. Stellarium

Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques has returned! Before it disappeared in the solar glow this spring, the comet reached magnitude +6, the naked eye limit. Now it’s back at dawn, rising higher each morning as it treks toward darker skies. Just days after its July 2 perihelion, the fuzzball will be in conjunction with the planet Venus tomorrow morning July 13. With Mercury nearby, you may have the chance to see this celestial ‘Rat Pack’ tucked within a 8° circle.

First photo of Comet Jacques on its return to the morning sky taken on July 7. Credit: Gerald Rhemann

First photo of Comet Jacques on its return to the morning sky taken on July 11. Two tails are visible – a short, dust tail pointing to the lower left of the coma and longer gas or ion tail to the right. Credit: Gerald Rhemann

While I can guarantee you’ll see Venus and probably Mercury (especially if you use binoculars), morning twilight and low altitude will undoubtedly make spotting Comet Jacques challenging. A 6-inch telescope might nail it. Look for a small, fuzzy cloud with a brighter core against the bluing sky. Patience is the sky observer’s most useful tool. It won’t be long before the comet’s westward motion combined with the seasonal drift of the stars will loft it into darkness again.

Use this map to follow Comet Jacques as it moves west across Taurus and Auriga over the next few weeks. Planet positions are shown for July 13 with stars to magnitude +6. Jacques' position is marked every 5 days. Source: Chris Mariott's SkyMap

Use this map to follow Comet Jacques as it moves west across Taurus and Auriga over the next few weeks. Planet positions are shown for July 13 with stars to magnitude +6. Jacques’ position is marked every 5 days. Click to enlarge. Source: Chris Mariott’s SkyMap

A week from now, when the moon’s slimmed to half, the comet will be nearly twice as high and should be easily visible in 50mm binoculars at the start of morning twilight.

Comet Jacques is expected to remain around magnitude +6 through the remainder of July into early August and then slowly fade. It will be well-placed in Perseus at the time of the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 12-13. Closest approach to Earth occurs on August 29 at 52.4 million miles (84.3 million km). Good luck and let us know if you see it.

About 

I'm a long-time amateur astronomer and member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). My observing passions include everything from auroras to Z Cam stars. Every day the universe offers up something both beautiful and thought-provoking. I also write a daily astronomy blog called Astro Bob.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: