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Comet PanSTARRS (C/2013 X1) after a recent outburst of activity can now be seen in the evening sky with binoculars and small telescopes. At the beginning of the year it had reached magnitude +8.6 and if keeps brightening as predicted, could reach fourth magnitude in June and early July.

Comet PanSTARRS on December 18, 2015 (credit - Brian Ottum/Rancho Hidalgo, NM)

Discovery

Comet PanSTARRS was discovered on December 4, 2013 using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) located on the island of Maui in Hawaii. At discovery, the comet was extremely faint with an apparent magnitude of +20.2.

The Pan-STARRS project is in its infancy and eventually will use an array of four 1.8m astronomical telescopes to survey the sky continuously in the hunt for moving objects. Although there are current funding issues and only two of the four telescopes are completed, the project is producing good results and already numerous asteroid and comet discoveries have been made.

Location and star charts

Throughout January, PanSTARRS is well placed for observation from northern locations as it moves through the constellation of Pegasus. The comet is visible with binoculars towards the western horizon after sunset, although many observers may require the extra aperture offered by telescopes to spot it. To find PanSTARRS, first locate the four stars that form the "Great Square of Pegasus". The comet slowly cuts through the south-eastern side of the square during January, heading in the direction of Pisces.

Comet PanSTARRS from mid northern temperate latitudes early evening on January 25, 2016 (credit:- Stellarium)

In the Northern Hemisphere, it will remain visible until late February. It then passes through perihelion on April 20th before returning very low down in the pre-dawn sky towards the end of May. It remains low down during the peak period. For Southern hemisphere observers the comet is low down during January but they will be favoured when it reaches peak brightness in June / July.

The finder charts below show the positions of PanSTARRS from December 25, 2015 to February 26, 2016.

Comet PanSTARRS Finder Chart from December 25, 2015 to February 26, 2016 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Comet PanSTARRS Finder Chart from December 25, 2015 to February 26, 2016 (credit:- freestarcharts)

C/2013 X1 (PanSTARRS) Data (at epoch June 27, 2015)

NameC/2013 X1 (PanSTARRS)
TypeComet
DiscovererPan-STARRS
Discovery dateDecember 4, 2013
Perihelion (AU)1.31417
Eccentricity1.00093
Orbital period (years)unknown
Inclination (degrees) 163.2303
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)130.9499
Perihelion April 20th, 2016

C/2013 X1 (PanSTARRS) Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
15-Dec-201500h 46m 14s31d 26m 27s+8.61.596Andromeda
16-Dec-201500h 43m 05s30d 50m 55s+8.61.605Andromeda
17-Dec-201500h 40m 03s30d 15m 35s+8.61.615Andromeda
18-Dec-201500h 37m 08s29d 40m 31s+8.61.625Andromeda
19-Dec-201500h 34m 20s29d 05m 44s+8.61.635Andromeda
20-Dec-201500h 31m 37s28d 31m 18s+8.61.646Andromeda
21-Dec-201500h 29m 01s27d 57m 15s+8.61.657Andromeda
22-Dec-201500h 26m 30s27d 23m 37s+8.61.668Andromeda
23-Dec-201500h 24m 06s26d 50m 25s+8.61.680Andromeda
24-Dec-201500h 21m 47s26d 17m 42s+8.61.692Andromeda
25-Dec-201500h 19m 34s25d 45m 29s+8.61.704Andromeda
26-Dec-201500h 17m 25s25d 13m 47s+8.61.717Andromeda
27-Dec-201500h 15m 22s24d 42m 36s+8.61.730Andromeda
28-Dec-201500h 13m 24s24d 11m 59s+8.61.743Andromeda
29-Dec-201500h 11m 31s23d 41m 55s+8.61.756Andromeda
30-Dec-201500h 09m 42s23d 12m 25s+8.61.770Pegasus
31-Dec-201500h 07m 58s22d 43m 29s+8.61.784Pegasus
01-Jan-201600h 06m 18s22d 15m 08s+8.61.797Pegasus
02-Jan-201600h 04m 43s21d 20m 11s+8.61.811Pegasus
03-Jan-201600h 03m 11s20d 53m 35s+8.61.826Pegasus
04-Jan-201600h 01m 43s20d 27m 34s+8.61.840Pegasus
05-Jan-201600h 00m 19s20d 02m 07s+8.61.854Pegasus
06-Jan-201623h 58m 59s19d 37m 14s+8.61.868Pegasus
07-Jan-201623h 57m 42s19d 12m 56s+8.61.883Pegasus
08-Jan-201623h 56m 29s18d 49m 11s+8.61.897Pegasus
09-Jan-201623h 55m 19s18d 25m 59s+8.61.912Pegasus
10-Jan-201623h 54m 11s18d 03m 21s+8.61.926Pegasus
11-Jan-201623h 53m 07s17d 41m 14s+8.61.941Pegasus
12-Jan-201623h 52m 06s17d 19m 39s+8.61.955Pegasus
13-Jan-201623h 51m 08s16d 58m 35s+8.61.969Pegasus
14-Jan-201623h 50m 12s16d 38m 01s+8.61.984Pegasus
15-Jan-201623h 49m 18s16d 17m 57s+8.61.998Pegasus
16-Jan-201623h 48m 28s15d 58m 23s+8.62.012Pegasus
17-Jan-201623h 47m 39s15d 39m 16s+8.62.026Pegasus
18-Jan-201623h 46m 53s15d 20m 38s+8.62.040Pegasus
19-Jan-201623h 46m 09s15d 02m 27s+8.62.054Pegasus
20-Jan-201623h 45m 27s14d 44m 42s+8.62.068Pegasus
21-Jan-201623h 44m 48s14d 27m 23s+8.62.082Pegasus
22-Jan-201623h 44m 10s14d 10m 29s+8.62.095Pegasus
23-Jan-201623h 43m 34s13d 53m 59s+8.62.108Pegasus
24-Jan-201623h 42m 60s13d 37m 53s+8.62.122Pegasus
25-Jan-201623h 42m 27s13d 22m 10s+8.62.135Pegasus
26-Jan-201623h 41m 56s13d 06m 50s+8.62.147Pegasus
27-Jan-201623h 41m 27s12d 51m 52s+8.62.160Pegasus
28-Jan-201623h 40m 59s12d 37m 14s+8.62.172Pegasus
29-Jan-201623h 40m 33s12d 22m 58s+8.62.185Pegasus
30-Jan-201623h 40m 08s12d 09m 01s+8.62.196Pegasus
31-Jan-201623h 39m 45s11d 55m 23s+8.62.208Pegasus
01-Feb-201623h 39m 23s11d 42m 05s+8.52.220Pegasus
02-Feb-201623h 39m 02s11d 29m 05s+8.52.231Pegasus
03-Feb-201623h 38m 42s11d 16m 22s+8.52.242Pegasus
04-Feb-201623h 38m 24s11d 03m 56s+8.52.253Pegasus
05-Feb-201623h 38m 06s10d 51m 47s+8.52.263Pegasus
06-Feb-201623h 37m 50s10d 39m 54s+8.52.273Pegasus
07-Feb-201623h 37m 35s10d 28m 17s+8.52.283Pegasus
08-Feb-201623h 37m 20s10d 16m 54s+8.52.293Pegasus
09-Feb-201623h 37m 07s10d 05m 46s+8.52.302Pegasus
10-Feb-201623h 36m 54s09d 54m 52s+8.52.311Pegasus
11-Feb-201623h 36m 43s09d 44m 11s+8.52.320Pegasus
12-Feb-201623h 36m 32s09d 33m 44s+8.52.329Pegasus
13-Feb-201623h 36m 22s09d 23m 28s+8.52.337Pegasus
14-Feb-201623h 36m 12s09d 13m 25s+8.52.344Pegasus
15-Feb-201623h 36m 04s09d 03m 33s+8.52.352Pegasus
16-Feb-201623h 35m 56s08d 53m 53s+8.42.359Pegasus
17-Feb-201623h 35m 48s08d 44m 22s+8.42.366Pegasus
18-Feb-201623h 35m 41s08d 35m 02s+8.42.372Pegasus
19-Feb-201623h 35m 35s08d 25m 52s+8.42.378Pegasus
20-Feb-201623h 35m 29s08d 16m 51s+8.42.384Pegasus
21-Feb-201623h 35m 24s08d 07m 59s+8.42.389Pisces
22-Feb-201623h 35m 19s07d 59m 16s+8.42.394Pisces
23-Feb-201623h 35m 15s07d 50m 40s+8.42.399Pisces
24-Feb-201623h 35m 11s07d 42m 13s+8.42.403Pisces
25-Feb-201623h 35m 07s07d 33m 52s+8.32.407Pisces
26-Feb-201623h 35m 04s07d 25m 39s+8.32.410Pisces
27-Feb-201623h 35m 01s07d 17m 32s+8.32.413Pisces
28-Feb-201623h 34m 59s07d 09m 32s+8.32.416Pisces
29-Feb-201623h 34m 57s07d 01m 37s+8.32.419Pisces
01-Mar-201623h 34m 55s06d 53m 49s+8.32.420Pisces
02-Mar-201623h 34m 53s06d 46m 05s+8.32.422Pisces
03-Mar-201623h 34m 52s06d 38m 26s+8.32.423Pisces
04-Mar-201623h 34m 51s06d 30m 52s+8.22.424Pisces
05-Mar-201623h 34m 50s06d 23m 23s+8.22.424Pisces
06-Mar-201623h 34m 49s06d 15m 57s+8.22.424Pisces
07-Mar-201623h 34m 48s06d 08m 35s+8.22.423Pisces
08-Mar-201623h 34m 48s06d 01m 16s+8.22.423Pisces
09-Mar-201623h 34m 47s05d 53m 60s+8.22.421Pisces
10-Mar-201623h 34m 47s05d 46m 47s+8.22.419Pisces
11-Mar-201623h 34m 47s05d 39m 36s+8.12.417Pisces
12-Mar-201623h 34m 46s05d 32m 27s+8.12.415Pisces
13-Mar-201623h 34m 46s05d 25m 19s+8.12.411Pisces
14-Mar-201623h 34m 46s05d 18m 13s+8.12.408Pisces
15-Mar-201623h 34m 46s05d 11m 08s+8.12.404Pisces
16-Mar-201623h 34m 45s05d 04m 03s+8.12.400Pisces
17-Mar-201623h 34m 45s04d 56m 59s+8.12.395Pisces
18-Mar-201623h 34m 45s04d 49m 55s+8.02.390Pisces
19-Mar-201623h 34m 44s04d 42m 50s+8.02.384Pisces
20-Mar-201623h 34m 44s04d 35m 45s+8.02.378Pisces
21-Mar-201623h 34m 43s04d 28m 39s+8.02.371Pisces
22-Mar-201623h 34m 42s04d 21m 32s+8.02.364Pisces
23-Mar-201623h 34m 41s04d 14m 23s+8.02.357Pisces
24-Mar-201623h 34m 40s04d 07m 12s+7.92.349Pisces
25-Mar-201623h 34m 38s03d 59m 59s+7.92.341Pisces
26-Mar-201623h 34m 37s03d 52m 44s+7.92.332Pisces
27-Mar-201623h 34m 35s03d 45m 25s+7.92.323Pisces
28-Mar-201623h 34m 33s03d 38m 04s+7.92.314Pisces
29-Mar-201623h 34m 31s03d 30m 38s+7.82.304Pisces
30-Mar-201623h 34m 28s03d 23m 09s+7.82.293Pisces
31-Mar-201623h 34m 25s03d 15m 36s+7.82.282Pisces