How to Observe Comet C/2016 M1

Comet C/2016 M1 (PanSTARRS) is a faint comet that is observable this week using binoculars or low power telescopes in the hours after midnight and it will become easier to see as the moon is waning now.

The comet is moving southwestward (towards the lower right) through the constellation Sagittarius (the Archer). It is a non-periodic comet discovered in 2016 by the robotic sky camera system called PanSTARRS. The M1 indicates that it was the first comet discovered in the second half of June that year.

Comet C/2016 M1 has an orbit that is at right angles to the plane of our solar system. (Comets can drop towards the sun from any direction  —  not just the plane that the planets orbit in.) Because it is about as close to Earth as it will get (roughly as far as the main asteroid belt beyond Mars), it’s probably near its peak brightness now, at a visual magnitude of about 9.0. It will swing around the Sun during August.

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