The Best Way to See the New Years Comet

Perhaps the simplest way to find Comet Catalina is to first locate the Big Dipper in the pre-dawn sky. Note how the handle forms a sort of ‘arc.’ That ‘arc’ can be followed to the orange giant star known as Arcturus which, for those in the Northern Hemisphere,  is the second brightest star in the sky and relatively easy to identify.

Guide to Arcturus

This simplified sky chart, using Stellarium planetarium software, can serve as an aid to find Comet Catalina on Jan. 1. The Big Dipper, particularly the ‘handle,’ easily guides the skywatcher to Arcturus. In turn, using binoculars to scan near the bright star will increase the odds of finding this rather faint comet. Credits: Stellarium/Rob Landis

Comet Catalina on New Year’s Morning

If you either get up early on New Year’s morning, or more likely, if you’re still up after celebrating all night, then here is where you can find Comet Catalina just before sunrise:

This graphic, also created using Stellarium, indicates the approximate position of Comet Catalina, tagged C/2013 US10 (Catalina), relative to the moon, planets and the bright star Arcturus in the pre-dawn sky (shortly before sunrise local time) on Jan. 1. Credits: Stellarium/David Cantillo

On New Year’s Day morning, Jan. 1, the comet will pass a mere 0.5 degrees – about the width of the moon – to the west of Arcturus. So if you head outdoors 60-90 minutes before dawn, let Arcturus serve as your guidepost (one ‘moon-width’ away) to find the faint, fuzzy patch of Comet Catalina. Of course, for optimal viewing, it’s recommended that you observe away from streetlights and city skyglow.