Periodic comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova passed close by the Earth on February 11, 2017. On this day, it moved to within 12.6 million kilometres or 7.8 million miles of our planet, which in astronomical terms was just a stone's throw away. At closest approach, the comet shone at mag. +6.5 and was visible with binoculars. However, soon it will dramatically fade as it heads towards the outer Solar System. As a result, the third week of February offers the last real good chance to catch a glimpse, until it returns in 5 years time.

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova as imaged on October 1, 2011 (credit:- Martin Mobberley - www.martinmobberley.co.uk)

Comet 45P is now well placed from northern latitudes. On February 14th, it was located in Boötes about 14 degrees northeast of first magnitude Arcturus. Moving westwards, 45P crossed into Canes Venatici on February 15th where it remains until February 20th. It then spends a day in Coma Berenices before moving into Ursa Major. On February 25th, the comet passes into Leo where it stays for the rest of the month.

On February 14th, 45p was still relatively bright at magnitude +7.2. It's now fading and by the month's end could be down to 12th magnitude. However, until about February 22nd, it should remain bright enough to be seen with small scopes and even binoculars. In addition, it's superbly placed from northern latitudes. The comet rises in the east during early evening, before reaching a high point in the sky during morning hours. It's not so well placed from southern locations, appearing lower down and rising much later on.

The charts below show the positions of the comet between February 12th and 22nd.

Positions of comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova from February 12th to 16th (credit:- freestarcharts)

Positions of comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova from February 12th to 16th - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Positions of comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova from February 15th to 22nd (credit:- freestarcharts)

Positions of comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova from February 15th to 22nd - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova data (at epoch January 7, 2017)

Name45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova
TypeComet
DiscovererMinoru Honda
Discovery dateDecember 3, 1948
Perihelion0.5296
Aphelion5.511
Semi-major axis (AU)3.0205
Eccentricity0.8246
Orbital period5.25
Inclination (degrees) 4.257
Perihelion December 31, 2016

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
01-Feb-201720h 12m 36s-04d 01m 01s7.90.162Aquila
02-Feb-201720h 03m 27s-02d 31m 24s7.80.150Aquila
03-Feb-201719h 52m 53s-00d 47m 52s7.70.139Aquila
04-Feb-201719h 40m 37s01d 12m 15s7.50.128Aquila
05-Feb-201719h 26m 17s03d 31m 49s7.40.118Aquila
06-Feb-201719h 09m 27s06d 13m 31s7.30.109Aquila
07-Feb-201718h 49m 37s09d 19m 08s7.10.101Aquila
08-Feb-201718h 26m 16s12d 48m 06s6.90.094Hercules
09-Feb-201717h 58m 58s16d 35m 36s6.70.089Hercules
10-Feb-201717h 27m 34s20d 30m 41s6.50.085Hercules
11-Feb-201716h 52m 27s24d 16m 15s6.50.083Hercules
12-Feb-201716h 14m 43s27d 32m 44s6.70.084Corona Borealis
13-Feb-201715h 36m 12s30d 04m 43s6.90.086Corona Borealis
14-Feb-201714h 58m 55s31d 46m 26s7.20.090Boötes
15-Feb-201714h 24m 33s32d 41m 58s7.50.096Boötes
16-Feb-201713h 54m 04s33d 01m 15s7.80.103Canes Venatici
17-Feb-201713h 27m 42s32d 55m 21s8.10.112Canes Venatici
18-Feb-201713h 05m 11s32d 33m 38s8.40.121Canes Venatici
19-Feb-201712h 46m 05s32d 02m 57s8.70.131Canes Venatici
20-Feb-201712h 29m 52s31d 27m 51s9.00.141Canes Venatici
21-Feb-201712h 16m 03s30d 51m 10s9.30.152Coma Berenices
22-Feb-201712h 04m 12s30d 14m 36s9.60.164Ursa Major
23-Feb-201711h 53m 59s29d 39m 07s9.90.176Ursa Major
24-Feb-201711h 45m 07s29d 05m 10s10.40.188Ursa Major
25-Feb-201711h 37m 22s28d 32m 58s10.80.200Ursa Major
26-Feb-201711h 30m 33s28d 02m 36s11.20.213Leo
27-Feb-201711h 24m 32s27d 33m 59s11.70.226Leo
28-Feb-201711h 19m 11s27d 07m 02s12.30.239Leo

See also
How to see comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova in the February morning sky. Will pass close by Earth on the 11th.
Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova now visible with small telescopes


Sky Highlights - September 2017

Opposition
Neptune reaches opposition on September 5th

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for September

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Jupiter (mag. -1.7)
Southwest:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)
East:- Neptune (mag. +7.8)
Midnight
South:- Neptune
East:- Uranus (mag. +5.7)
Morning
West:- Neptune
South:- Uranus
East:- Venus (mag. -3.9), Mars (mag. +1.8) (from second week), Mercury (mag. +0.5 to -1.3) (from second week)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Jupiter
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Neptune
Midnight
West:- Saturn
North:- Neptune
Northeast:- Uranus
Morning
West:- Neptune
Northwest:- Uranus
Northeast:- Venus
East:- Mars (end of month)

Deep Sky

Small telescopes:-
Messier 13 - M13 - Great Hercules Globular Cluster
Messier 92 - M92 - Globular Cluster
Messier 11 - M11 - The Wild Duck Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 7 - M7 - The Ptolemy Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 6 - M6 - The Butterfly Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 4 - M4 - Globular Cluster
Messier 8 - M8 - Lagoon Nebula (Emission Nebula)
Messier 16 - M16 - Eagle Nebula (Emission Nebula with Open Cluster)
Messier 20 - M20 - Trifid Nebula (Emission and Reflection Nebula)

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