62P Tsuchinshan

Closest to Sun on 2023 Dec 25 at 1.26AU.
Closest to Earth on 2024 Jan 30 at 0.49AU.
Maximum magnitude 7.5 in January 2024
Orbital period 6.19 years



This periodic comet was discovered by the Purple Mountain observatory in China in 1965 and this return will be the 9th observed apparition.
It passed 0.27AU from Jupiter in April 2020 which reduced its perihelion distance from 1.38AU to 1.26AU on 2023 December 25.
This reduction could lead to enhanced activity at this return.
It is also making its closest ever approach to the Earth at 0.49AU on January 30, when it may reach a peak brightness of 7th magnitude.
The comet is better placed for observation from the northern hemisphere but southerners will still get an opportunity, albeit lower in the sky.

During December, it is essentially a morning object situated in Leo, brightening from magnitude 9 to 8.
On December 12, the comet is 33’ SW of 11th mag galaxy NGC 3239
On December 22, the comet is adjacent to 12th mag galaxy NGC 3485.
On December 28-29 a great rendezvous with the Leo trio of galaxies M65, M66 and NGC 3628 will occur. Astrophotographers take note!

During January 2024, the comet is best observed in the hour before dawn, traversing the constellations of Leo and Virgo.
It will remain 7th magnitude throughout the month as its distance from the Sun is offset by its approach to the Earth.
Periodic comets also tend to appear brighter after the perihelion passage.
Moonlight interferes during the first week of January.
On January 7, the comet is situated 2 degrees south of Denebola (Beta Leonis)
On January 10, it has a close encounter with 12th magnitude galaxy NGC 3968
On January 18, it has a close encounter with 12th magnitude galaxy NGC 4178
Moonlight interferes from January 24
On January 27, the comet locates between 11th magnitude galaxies NGC 4429 and NGC 4442

During February 2024, the comet performs a retrograde loop in the constellation of Virgo as the Earth overtakes it
and remains within 2 degrees of Rho Virginis throughout the month, fading from magnitude 7 to 9.
At the start of February, it is still best observed after midnight, transiting north at 430am local time.
Throughout the month, between February 7 to 28, the comet remains within 30’ of magnitude 11.4 galaxy NGC 4596 in Virgo.
Moonlight interferes from February 22
By end of February, the comet transits north at 330am local time.

During March 2024, the comet reaches opposition in the constellation of Virgo and starts to become visible in evening skies,
fading from magnitude 9 to 11, but still best observed after midnight.
On March 12, the comet is virtually back in the same position as it was in late January,
once again located between 11th magnitude galaxies NGC 4429 and NGC 4442.
Wouldn’t it be an interesting photo for comparison.
Moonlight interferes with morning observing from March 22 and evening observing until March 29.

During April 2024, the comet remains within 2 degrees of Omicron Virginis throughout the month, fading from magnitude 11 to 13.
On April 3-6, it passes within a degree north of 12th magnitude galaxy NGC 4119 in Virgo
The next return of this comet occurs in March of 2030.
 

Observations


Image of 62P Tsuchinshan on 2023 December 16