Comet 21P/Gi­a­cobini-Zin­ner

WHEN: Through­out May, as de­scribed

Sky at Night Magazine - - THE SKY GUIDE -

Comet 21P/Gi­a­cobini-Zin­ner is cur­rently a rather faint ob­ject track­ing through the sum­mer con­stel­la­tions of May’s early morn­ing sky. It passes Earth by just 0.39 AU next month but de­spite this is only ex­pected to

reach 11th mag­ni­tude. Things should im­prove later in the year when 21P may be­come bright enough to be seen with the naked-eye and, more im­por­tantly for the UK, will be well-po­si­tioned in the sky.

Back to this month and the comet starts its ap­par­ent jour­ney against the back­ground stars in the con­stel­la­tion of Sagitta, the Ar­row. It should be around mag. +14.4 at this time so rather faint for visual de­tec­tion but cer­tainly a tar­get for pho­tog­ra­phy. It’s con­ve­niently lo­cated close to the mag. +4.4 star Al­pha (_) Sagit­tae at 01:00 BST (00:00 UT) on 1 May.

Next 21P tracks through to Vulpec­ula pass­ing be­tween the mag. +7.9 open clus­ter NGC 6830 and mag. +7.4 plan­e­tary ne­bula M27 – the Dumb­bell Ne­bula – on the night of 10/11 May. It re­mains rel­a­tively close to M27 on 11/12 May pro­vid­ing a rea­son­ably good pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­nity to catch comet and ne­bula to­gether in the same shot, de­spite the comet’s dim 14th mag­ni­tude sta­tus.

Now the comet tracks north through Vulpec­ula and into Cygnus. It ends the month at mag. +12.8 ly­ing 5° west­north­west of the vast su­per­nova com­plex known as the Veil Ne­bula.

This area of sky is rich in back­ground stars thanks to the Milky Way. If you con­tinue to fol­low 21P as it tracks up across Cygnus’s east­ern wing, its most ex­cit­ing en­counter will come at the end of June when it skirts the east­ern edge of NGC 7000, the North Amer­ica Ne­bula.

Path of comet 21P/Gi­a­cobini-Zin­ner through May. Po­si­tions cor­rect for 01:00 BST on dates shown

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