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Comet Encke (2P/Encke) the periodic comet with the shortest orbital period of all know comets (3.3 years) is now visible with binoculars and small telescopes from the northern hemisphere and tropics. It can be seen low down towards the east in the early morning sky. Unfortunately, from the southern hemisphere it's not observable.

Recent observations at the beginning of the month put Encke at magnitude +7.7 with a bright core of about 2 arc minutes in diameter surrounded by a fainter coma some 10 arc minutes across. The comet will continue to brighten, although only slightly, until it peaks at about magnitude +7.1 just before perihelion (Nov. 21st). It remains visible to observers until about the 18th, before been finally lost to the bright dawn twilight sky.

Comet Encke (2P/Encke) as imaged by the Spacewatch Telescope on Kitt Peak in 1994 (JPL/Jim Scotti)

At perihelion, Encke approaches to within 0.33625 AU (approx. 50.30 million kilometres or 31.26 million miles) of the Sun.

The finder charts below show the positions of Encke from November 3rd until November 18th as it moves through Virgo. On November 16th/17th, Mercury (mag. -0.5) will be positioned just a few degrees from Encke.

Comet Encke Finder Chart from November 3 to November 18, 2013

Comet Encke Finder Chart from November 3 to November 18, 2013 - pdf format

Comet 2P/Encke Data Table (at epoch August 21, 2012)

ClassificationEncke-type comet (NEO)
DiscovererPierre Méchain, Johann Franz Encke first recognised the periodicity
Discovery date1786 (orbit computed by Encke in 1819)
Aphelion (AU)4.09236
Perihelion (AU)0.33625
Semi-major axis (AU) 2.21430
Orbital period (years)3.29513
Inclination (degrees) 11.7773
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)334.572
Last perihelion August 6th, 2010
Next perihelion November 21st, 2013
NotesComet Encke has the shortest orbital period of any known comet

Comet Encke (2P/Encke) Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationEstimated MagnitudeDistance from Earth (AU)Constellation
01 Nov 201312h 35m 04s09d 20m 19s7.70.600Virgo
02 Nov 201312h 41m 39s07d 49m 14s7.70.617Virgo
03 Nov 201312h 48m 00s06d 20m 31s7.70.634Virgo
04 Nov 201312h 54m 10s04d 54m 09s7.60.652Virgo
05 Nov 201313h 00m 08s03d 30m 05s7.60.671Virgo
06 Nov 201313h 05m 58s02d 08m 13s7.60.692Virgo
07 Nov 201313h 11m 40s00d 48m 28s7.50.712Virgo
08 Nov 201313h 17m 16s-00d 29m 19s7.50.734Virgo
09 Nov 201313h 22m 48s-01d 45m 14s7.40.757Virgo
10 Nov 201313h 28m 17s-02d 59m 25s7.40.781Virgo
11 Nov 201313h 33m 45s-04d 12m 02s7.30.805Virgo
12 Nov 201313h 39m 14s-05d 23m 11s7.30.830Virgo
13 Nov 201313h 44m 44s-06d 32m 59s7.20.856Virgo
14 Nov 201313h 50m 19s-07d 41m 34s7.20.883Virgo
15 Nov 201313h 55m 59s-08d 48m 59s7.20.911Virgo
16 Nov 201314h 01m 46s-09d 55m 18s7.10.939Virgo
17 Nov 201314h 07m 42s-11d 00m 30s7.10.968Virgo
18 Nov 201314h 13m 47s-12d 04m 33s7.10.997Virgo
19 Nov 201314h 20m 02s-13d 07m 23s7.11.026Virgo
20 Nov 201314h 26m 29s-14d 08m 51s7.11.056Libra
21 Nov 201314h 33m 06s-15d 08m 47s7.21.085Libra
22 Nov 201314h 39m 53s-16d 06m 58s7.21.114Libra
23 Nov 201314h 46m 50s-17d 03m 12s7.31.143Libra
24 Nov 201314h 53m 54s-17d 57m 15s7.41.172Libra
25 Nov 201315h 01m 05s-18d 48m 57s7.51.199Libra
26 Nov 201315h 08m 20s-19d 38m 08s7.61.226Libra
27 Nov 201315h 15m 37s-20d 24m 41s7.71.253Libra
28 Nov 201315h 22m 56s-21d 08m 34s7.91.278Libra
29 Nov 201315h 30m 14s-21d 49m 44s8.01.303Libra
30 Nov 201315h 37m 31s-22d 28m 13s8.21.327Libra
01 Dec 201315h 44m 44s-23d 04m 04s8.31.351Libra
02 Dec 201315h 51m 53s-23d 37m 22s8.51.374Scorpius
03 Dec 201315h 58m 58s-24d 08m 11s8.61.396Scorpius
04 Dec 201316h 05m 57s-24d 36m 37s8.71.418Scorpius
05 Dec 201316h 12m 50s-25d 02m 48s8.91.440Scorpius
06 Dec 201316h 19m 37s-25d 26m 50s9.01.461Scorpius
07 Dec 201316h 26m 17s-25d 48m 49s9.21.482Scorpius
08 Dec 201316h 32m 51s-26d 08m 53s9.31.502Scorpius
09 Dec 201316h 39m 18s-26d 27m 07s9.41.523Scorpius
10 Dec 201316h 45m 38s-26d 43m 37s9.61.543Scorpius
11 Dec 201316h 51m 51s-26d 58m 31s9.71.562Scorpius
12 Dec 201316h 57m 58s-27d 11m 53s9.91.582Ophiuchus
13 Dec 201317h 03m 57s-27d 23m 49s10.21.601Ophiuchus
14 Dec 201317h 09m 50s-27d 34m 24s10.41.620Ophiuchus
15 Dec 201317h 15m 36s-27d 43m 43s10.61.639Ophiuchus
16 Dec 201317h 21m 15s-27d 51m 51s10.81.658Ophiuchus
17 Dec 201317h 26m 48s-27d 58m 51s11.01.677Ophiuchus
18 Dec 201317h 32m 14s-28d 04m 49s11.21.695Ophiuchus
19 Dec 201317h 37m 34s-28d 09m 47s11.41.714Ophiuchus
20 Dec 201317h 42m 48s-28d 13m 50s11.61.732Ophiuchus
21 Dec 201317h 47m 56s-28d 17m 00s11.81.750Sagittarius
22 Dec 201317h 52m 58s-28d 19m 22s12.01.768Sagittarius
23 Dec 201317h 57m 54s-28d 20m 58s12.11.786Sagittarius
24 Dec 201318h 02m 44s-28d 21m 51s12.31.804Sagittarius
25 Dec 201318h 07m 29s-28d 22m 03s12.51.822Sagittarius
26 Dec 201318h 12m 08s-28d 21m 38s12.61.839Sagittarius
27 Dec 201318h 16m 43s-28d 20m 37s12.81.857Sagittarius
28 Dec 201318h 21m 11s-28d 19m 02s12.91.874Sagittarius
29 Dec 201318h 25m 35s-28d 16m 57s13.11.891Sagittarius
30 Dec 201318h 29m 54s-28d 14m 22s13.21.908Sagittarius
31 Dec 201318h 34m 09s-28d 11m 20s13.41.925Sagittarius

See also

Comet Encke (2P/Encke) now rapidly brightening in the morning sky