For the last 6 months or so, Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) has put on a good show for observers. During this time, the distant comet never came within 1.27 AU (188 million kilometers or 118 million miles) of Earth and hovered around magnitude 7 for a long time before peaking at magnitude 6.3 in late February 2012.

One notable event occurred on the 3rd February when observers and imagers scrambled for their scopes and cameras to record Garradd as it passed just one third of a degree from bright globular cluster M92. Both visually and photographically the two objects appeared superb, sitting side-by-side, almost equal in brightness despite the massive difference in distance between them.

Comet Garradd passes close by globular cluster M92 - Photo Credit: J D Maddy (www.astroverde.org)

What is very obvious, especially in images of Garradd are both its dust and ion tails. The streams of dust and gas emanating from the comet each form their own distinct tail, pointing in slightly different directions. The tail of dust is often in the shape of a familiar curve but the ion tail, made of gases, always points directly away from the Sun. What is unusual is that both tails, when viewed from our prospective, appeared in nearly opposite directions.

With perihelion (23rd December 2011) and closest approach to Earth (5th March 2012) past, Comet Garradd is now heading towards the depths of the solar system. But there is still a chance to glimpse this small icy body before it becomes too faint; the comet will still be a binocular and small telescope object, appearing as a fuzzy disk, for a number of weeks yet.

Between the middle of March and the end of April 2012 Garradd will decrease from 7th to 9th magnitude as it moves from Draco through Ursa Major and into Lynx. Although past its best, the high declination means that it is still an easy object for northern hemisphere observers and for much of this time is circumpolar. Towards the end of April, Garradd is also visible from mid-southern hemisphere latitudes appearing low down in the evening sky.

Comet Garradd finder chart for March and April 2012 (positions are shown at 0:00UT)

Comet Garradd finder chart for March and April 2012 (positions are shown at 0:00UT) - pdf format

Comet Garradd Data Table

DateRA (J2000)DEC (J2000)Estimated Magnitude
15/03/201212h 03m 40.7s 70d 05m 08s 6.7
16/03/201211h 49m 10.7s 69d 42m 51s 6.7
17/03/201211h 35m 23.4s 69d 15m 59s 6.7
18/03/201211h 22m 22.7s 68d 44m 58s 6.8
19/03/201211h 10m 10.6s 68d 10m 16s 6.8
20/03/201210h 58m 47.7s 67d 32m 23s 6.8
21/03/201210h 48m 13.4s 66d 51m 44s 6.9
22/03/201210h 38m 26.1s 66d 08m 45s 6.9
23/03/201210h 29m 23.7s 65d 23m 50s 7.0
24/03/201210h 21m 03.6s 64d 37m 20s 7.0
25/03/201210h 13m 23.3s 63d 49m 35s 7.0
26/03/201210h 06m 19.8s 63d 00m 53s 7.1
27/03/201209h 59m 50.4s 62d 11m 29s 7.1
28/03/201209h 53m 52.4s 61d 21m 36s 7.1
29/03/201209h 48m 23.3s 60d 31m 28s 7.2
30/03/201209h 43m 20.7s 59d 41m 13s 7.2
31/03/201209h 38m 42.4s 58d 51m 01s 7.3
01/04/201209h 34m 26.3s 58d 01m 01s 7.3
02/04/201209h 30m 30.7s 57d 11m 18s 7.4
03/04/201209h 26m 53.7s 56d 21m 59s 7.4
04/04/201209h 23m 33.8s 55d 33m 08s 7.4
05/04/201209h 20m 29.7s 54d 44m 50s 7.5
06/04/201209h 17m 40.0s 53d 57m 07s 7.5
07/04/201209h 15m 03.6s 53d 10m 03s 7.6
08/04/201209h 12m 39.5s 52d 23m 40s 7.6
09/04/201209h 10m 26.6s 51d 37m 59s 7.7
10/04/201209h 08m 24.2s 50d 53m 03s 7.7
11/04/201209h 06m 31.3s 50d 08m 51s 7.8
12/04/201209h 04m 47.4s 49d 25m 26s 7.8
13/04/201209h 03m 11.8s 48d 42m 47s 7.8
14/04/201209h 01m 43.9s 48d 00m 54s 7.9
15/04/201209h 00m 23.2s 47d 19m 48s 7.9
16/04/201208h 59m 09.1s 46d 39m 28s 8.0
17/04/201208h 58m 01.2s 45d 59m 55s 8.0
18/04/201208h 56m 59.2s 45d 21m 07s 8.1
19/04/201208h 56m 02.5s 44d 43m 05s 8.1
20/04/201208h 55m 11.0s 44d 05m 48s 8.2
21/04/201208h 54m 24.1s 43d 29m 14s 8.2
22/04/201208h 53m 41.8s 42d 53m 25s 8.3
23/04/201208h 53m 03.6s 42d 18m 18s 8.3
24/04/201208h 52m 29.4s 41d 43m 53s 8.3
25/04/201208h 51m 58.9s 41d 10m 09s 8.4
26/04/201208h 51m 31.9s 40d 37m 06s 8.4
27/04/201208h 51m 08.1s 40d 04m 42s 8.5
28/04/201208h 50m 47.4s 39d 32m 56s 8.5
29/04/201208h 50m 29.7s 39d 01m 48s 8.6
30/04/201208h 50m 14.7s 38d 31m 17s 8.6

(positions are shown at 0:00UT)

See also

Comet Garradd now visible in the morning skies before 3rd February close encounter with M92
Reliable Comet Garradd moves to the fringe of naked eye brightness


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