See Comet Jacques Before Dawn

After a slow four-month climb from obscurity, Comet C/2014 E2 has emerged from behind the Sun and can be viewed low in the eastern sky before the first light of dawn begins.

Comet Jacques (C/2014 E2) is moving into better view in the hours before dawn. Look at least 90 minutes before your local sunrise time while the sky is still dark! Planets are positioned for July 24th. At the telescope, you'll probably need to use this more detailed map (Courtesy Bob King) to pinpoint the comet's location among stars to 6th magnitude.

It's been a long time since we Earthlings have been treated to a spectacular comet (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere). So these days we'll take whatever little gauzy apparitions we can get.

For the next couple of weeks, you can train your telescope low in the eastern sky before the first light of dawn to look for Comet Jacques (C/2014 E2). Observers report that this interloper has gradually brightened from obscurity and is holding steady at about 6th magnitude. The comet should be about as bright right now as it's going to get.

As the chart here shows, this week Comet Jacques is climbing higher in the hours before dawn, skirting the western stars of Auriga before moving on into Perseus. Its elongation (angular separation) from the Sun is about 40°, and that will grow to 50° over the next week.

Comet Jacques on April 26, 2014

Here's how Comet Jacques (C/2014 E2) looked three months ago, on April 26th. Spanish observer José J. Chambó used an 8-inch telescope and stacked together eight 120-second-long exposures.

With New Moon approaching, bright moonlight will not be a hindrance. Visually, the comet is not sporting an obvious tail, though a long, waving streamer was captured by one of NASA's STEREO spacecraft. But the cloud-like coma surrounding its nucleus is fairly condensed and concentrated, which improves your odds of success. Pick a clear, haze-free morning to go hunting.

If you do spot Comet Jacques, please post a comment below and include your circumstances (location, time, equipment used) to help others in their quest.

Comet Jacques's Close Brush with Venus

It's a pity we couldn't have viewed this visitor from the vantage point of Venus. Back on the 13th, that planet and the comet were just 9 million miles apart! The only spacecraft in that immediate vicinity is the European Space Agency's Venus Express. But right now this orbiter is wrapping up some challenging aerobraking maneuvers that have kept the mission team preoccupied.

Comet Jacques is heading out of the inner solar system, but it came very close to Venus on July 13, 2014.
JPL Horizons

(I asked project scientist Håkan Svedhem about taking a few snapshots, and he replied, "By mid-July we should be finished, and if everything is still OK we might be able to do something with this comet.")

The comet has brightened thousands of times since Cristóvão Jacques, João Ribeiro de Barros, and Eduardo Pimentel captured it on March 13th in CCD images taken with the 0.45-m reflector at SONEAR Observatory near Oliveira, Brazil.

SONEAR stands for "Southern Observatory for Near Earth Asteroids Research," but of course discovering a comet is even better! In fact, this trio of observers had discovered another comet, C/2014 A4, just two months earlier.

8 thoughts on “See Comet Jacques Before Dawn

  1. rocksnstarsrocksnstars

    Always happy to see a comet getting some publicity, but after retiring 6 years ago, the only time I’ve seen the eastern sky at 45 minutes before dawn was when any comet could only be seen then (and at the end of the six Messier Marathons I’ve completed since). Being not long before the beginning of civil twilight, 45 minutes before sunrise presents a rather bright eastern sky, such that a 6th mag object probably looks at best more like an 8th mag object in a dark sky.
    Because the comet is coming toward us, a month from now it will be half the current distance and should be very close to the same magnitude. More importantly, it will be at an altitude of 30 degrees (and rising) at the end of astronomical twilight in the evening.
    As we oh so well know, comets do not always perform per prediction, so yes it could be considerably dimmer a month from now, but I’m going to wait. If I had not seen the comet in the evening in early May, I might not be saying that.
    My only intent here is to let others like me (morning adverse) know that there is a chance (I think a good chance) that the comet will be better looking the next time the moon gets out of the way, and it will be in the evening sky.

    1. Frank@RACFrank@RAC

      Rocks, do we know for sure now what time the comet will be visible in the Northeast in a few weeks later in August ? Right now I need to see its rising with Capella/Auriga so you need to be up at 2 or 3 AM. How soon before we can see it around 9 or 10 PM ?

  2. Michael BeckageMichael Beckage

    Three astronomer friends and I enjoyed an all night dark-sky observing party this past weekend near Borrego Springs, California. One of our goals was to see how Comet Jacques was performing under a truly dark, transparent sky. After observing numerous objects through scopes ranging from a Teleview 101 to an 18″ Dob, Capella finally cleared the horizon at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday 27 July. By 3 .a.m. the area of Auriga where the comet was supposed to be was a few degrees above the horizon. I scanned the area with 9X63 binos and easily identified the comet, looking very much like an out of place globular cluster. I few quick looks through an 80 mm refractor showed a much brighter fuzz ball with no apparent tail. Feeling encouraged, we captured several images using my 70s vintage C-14 with Hyperstar prime focus adapter and Canon 60Da. 20 second exposures at ISO 1600 produced a lovely image showing a concentrated nucleus, green coma, and a narrow, forked streamer of a tail somewhere between 1/2 and 1 degree in length. A very pleasing comet indeed! Many thanks to my friends Curt, Clayton and Matt for their help and a great night under the stars.

  3. Joe StieberJoe Stieber

    On Friday, July 25, 2014, we finally had a morning of decent transparency here in suburban southern New Jersey, just 8 miles from center-city Philadelphia. Although this is generally a poor location for observing comets, I was easily able to spot C/2014 E2 (Jacques) with 16×70 binoculars at 4:15 am EDT, 15 minutes after the start of astronomical twilight. No searching was required, I just dropped down a degree from the southern tip of the “Flying Minnow” asterism in Auriga and saw a small fuzzy patch (only the coma, no tail was apparent). In the 16x70s, it looked somewhat similar to nearby M36. I’m anxious for another clear morning to get my scope out to the darker NJ Pines for a better view.

  4. Osiris-CastilloOsiris-Castillo

    This morning, Wednesday 7/30/2014, I went out of of my house to my backyard in Masaya, Nicaragua, Central America, and I was able to find the comet Jacques with my pair of Celestron Skymaster 15×70 at 3:45am (UTC-6).

    The sky was very clear, but the light pollution of my small city made me take a harder look, and after a couple of minutes the comet appears (no tail). It looks like M36, also in Auriga.

    I take a picture of it with my old canon 30D using a 50mm f/1.8. Maybe this weekend I will go to farm some miles away from Masaya escaping from the lights of the city. I hope that I find a clear sky again, we are in the rainy seasson here in Nicaragua.

  5. robert-simpson

    I observed comet Jaques on 7/23/2014 from 4 to 4:30 A.M. I had been up all night observing mostly globular clusters with a 12″ reflector under pristine dark skies at 6000′. Sweeping at 50x the comet was surprisingly bright (6 mag.) and looked very much like a big condensed globular minus the resolved stars. At 94x I was getting a suggestion of a tail but it may have been averted imagination. I got one last look with 9×63 binoculars which showed the “comet aqua” color well.

  6. Frank@RACFrank@RAC

    I saw Comet Jacques last week at the Rockland Astronomy Club SUMMER STAR PARTY which was attended by S&T’s Alan MacRobert. Got a bit confused on the orientation of Capella/Auriga and we took a few minutes to find it. In a C-14 the comet looked like a medium-sized bright core of a globular cluster. A tail was visible though somewhat faint and not too spectacular. From the semi-dark skies of the Berkshires in Western MA, the comet was also visible in my 15×50 IS binoculars.

    I also saw the comet from my light-polluted terrace about 30 miles north of NYC using the binoculars. About 3:00 AM EDT is when the comet was seen. If I stay up later or see it later in August when it is higher in the sky I will report back.

  7. Frank@RACFrank@RAC

    I was able to see Comet Jacques this morning at about 1:45 AM. The comet was UP and to the LEFT of Navi in Cassiopeia. It was faint but visible with my Canon IS 15×50′s as I looked out from my porch in a light-polluted apartment complex. I’m sure it would look much better from a semi-dark sky area without spotlights and street lights and through a 6″ or 8″ telescope.

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