Spot comet Catalina this weekend

Comet Catalina has crossed into Northern Hemisphere skies and is now visible through binoculars.
By | Published: December 11, 2015 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Astronomy: Roen Kelly
Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) has brightened to 6th magnitude and appears nice through binoculars and telescopes for those up before the Sun.

The comet lies in eastern Virgo, a region that rises shortly after 3 a.m. local time and climbs some 30° high in the southeast by the time twilight begins. On the morning of December 12, Catalina stands 2° due north of 4th-magnitude Iota (ι) Virginis.

For the next week or so, Moon-free skies will let observers get detailed views of the comet’s dust and gas tails. From our perspective, the two tails appear distinct.

Although the comet’s surface remains hidden by a veil of dust, the surrounding coma may show a greenish hue.

The Moon returns to the morning sky in late December as Catalina sets its sights on ­brilliant Arcturus. It will then continue to climb northward for the next few weeks and will pass within 1° of Arcturus in early January.