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.
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).