Comet with a name longer than its tail

The first bright comet of the year – not bright enough for the naked eye, but tantalizingly close, and findable with binoculars – is 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková.

Sky scebe 2017 Feb 15 evening

It was at perihelion right at the end of last year – a couple of hours before the end of Dec. 31 – inside and south of the November part of Earth’s orbit.  Moving faster than Earth, it rose back through the ecliptic plane on Jan. 10, overtook us on the inside (conjunction with the Sun) on Jan. 29, and is climbing out in front of us over our orbit.

It was nearest to us (0.08 of an astronomical unit or Earth-Sun distance) on Feb. 11, appeared farthest north on Feb. 15, and raced eastward across our high morning sky, so that it is now up in the northeast well before midnight.  Its eastward movement of 6 or more degrees a day is why my finder chart for it has to be wide.

This small comet is designated 45P in the list of known periodic comets, and bears three names because n 1948 it was independently discovered iby Minoru Honda of Japan and by Antonín Mrkos and L’udmila Pajdušáková of Czechoslovakia.  There is more about it in Astronomical Calendar 2016, and I am striving to fit it and others into the online Astronomical Calendar 2017 (see the link above).



5 thoughts on “Comet with a name longer than its tail”

  1. I tried to view it last night with 20×80 binoculars, but clouds moved in around 9:30 in the evening, so I missed it. This weekend is supposed to be clear here in central Virginia, so I’m hoping to see it. Good luck to Anthony and everyone else trying to view it!

      1. I think I missed the comet. Last night was exceptional and I still could not find it with my 20×80’s. My observing log shows that I found 10 Messier objects (8 galaxies and 2 globulars) in this area of the sky even with my suburban, light-polluted skies, but the comet was not visible. I hope others had better luck.

  2. I’ve been looking for 45P with binoculars, but without luck. We had a couple of very clear mornings here in SF, but they coincided with full Moon, and the moonlight overwhelmed the comet. A friend with a 13 inch reflector couldn’t see the comet, either. Now we’ve got another week of rain and clouds on the way. The comet will soon be visible in the northeast in the evening, but, even if we have clear skies, that’s the worst time and direction for light pollution from my home.

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