5 Dec 2015

Comet Catalina ‘The Christmas Comet’: Where to see it


On 1st December comet Catalina lies in the SE sky before sunrise and may first be glimpsed on 9 December when it lies a little to the left of Iota Virginis with a magnitude of +4.8. Iota is also of the 4th magnitude. ‘the Christmas comet’ continues to grow brighter as it moves up through Virgo into Bootes (the herdsman) during the month The best photo-opportunity will be on New Year’s Eve when comet Catalina will be very close to Arcturus, the brightest star in Bootes. Its magnitude will be 4.8 so it will be visible to the unaided-eye at this stage.

Catalina continues to climb higher into the northern sky, and reaches its second photo opportunity on 15 January 2016 when the 5 mag comet will be a little left of the bright star Benetnash, the bottom star of the ‘Plough’ in Ursa Major the great bear. On the evening of the 31 January Catalina will be to the right of Polaris in the zenith. The comet’s brightness will then have faded to +6 below naked-eye visibility.

Small telescopes will now be need to show the comet well. Catalina passes down through the fainter constellation Camalopardalis, fading all the time, and moves into Perseus when its magnitude will be +9.


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