Comet C/2020 S3 Erasmus ‘may’ end out the cometary cavalcade for 2020.
Ready for one more comet for 2020? Thus far, this year has been a memorable one for comet watchers, with a steady stream of binocular fuzzball comets, crowned by the amazing sight of naked eye comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE this past summer. 2020 cometary alumni has also included comets F8 SWAN, P1 NEOWISE, and M3 ATLAS. Now, newly discovered Comet C/2020 S3 Erasmus takes center stage.
Two more comets – 88P Howell and M3 ATLAS – are worth scouting the sky for into November 2020.
If you’re like us, you’ve been at taking advantage of every clear night during quarantine to get out and observe the night sky. Thankfully, 2020 has thus far been a ‘comet year,’ with a steady string of binocular comets, led by bright comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE this summer. Fall is seeing another surge in comets topping +10th magnitude. Late October sees a brief dawn apparition of Comet C/2020 P1 NEOWISE and now, two other comets grace the dawn and dusk skies.
Comet P1 NEOWISE will make a brief dawn appearance for northern hemisphere observers in late October/early November.
So, how about Comet F3 NEOWISE this summer? 2020 saw the rapid appearance of one of the best northern hemisphere comets in recent memory, and the first good comet for us up north for the 21st century, as F3 NEOWISE graced early morning skies, and transitioned to a fine dusk apparition for an encore performance in the last half of July.
F3 NEOWISE reminded us that all comets are worth keeping tabs on… just in case. But wait, there’s more. The Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) caught another intriguing object on August 2, 2020 as part of its extended sky survey mission: Comet C/2020 P1 NEOWISE is set to become a fine binocular object in late October and early November.
It’s August once again, and that means the Perseid meteors are inbound. This shower is a sure-fire bet starting this weekend, though 2020 sees the spectacle go down under somewhat challenging circumstances.
Watch for comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE at dusk in late July… if it survives perihelion.
Update – Friday July 3rd: Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE reaches perihelion today at 16:18 UT/12:18 PM EDT. As of writing this, several observers worldwide have recovered the comet at dawn, and it seems to be holding steady at magnitude +0.5. The dawn apparition is, however, a tough catch, as the comet stays very low to the northeast at dawn in early July. We’ve added in a finder chart (below) for this brief dawn apparition; things improve greatly towards mid-July, as the comet shifts over to the dusk sky and heads out away from the Sun. Let’s hope it stays bright, and maybe throws an outburst our way! We’ll continue to post updates on Twitter as @Astroguyz as the celestial situation warrants.
Eclipse season resumes on June 5th, with a fine penumbral lunar eclipse.
Are you cursing the June Full Moon as it thwarts your dreams of deep-sky imaging this week? Fear not; said Moon is actually the first astronomical draw for June 2020, as this coming weekend’s Full Moon marks the start of second eclipse season for 2020, with a penumbral lunar eclipse.
Got clear skies? If you’re like us, you’ve been putting the recent pandemic-induced exile to productive use, and got out under the nighttime sky. And though 2020 has yet to offer up a good bright ‘Comet of the Century’ to keep us entertained, there have been a steady stream of good binocular comets for northern hemisphere viewers, including C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS and C/2019 Y4 ATLAS. This week, I’d like to turn your attention to another good binocular comet that is currently at its peak: the ‘other’ comet ATLAS, C/2019 Y1 ATLAS.
Are you hanging out at home this week, and looking to observe some naked eye planets? As we mentioned last week, while Venus is shining bright in the dusk sky, all of the other four naked eye planets of Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury are skulking in the early dawn.
Happen to have clear skies tomorrow morning and live in the western part of North America? Then you may have a chance to spy a unique event, as the waning crescent Moon occults (passes in front of) the planet Mars.