John O'Neal, NC Stargazer's
Lifetime List of Observed Comets Index
Why I like Comets

My Theater of Comets Website is not to be confused with a scientific treatise. While there is some science involved, this website strives to provide a more relaxed rambling through over 30 years of enjoying and observing comets. My cometary tale (excuse the pun) began in the mid 1970's with Comet West and is still going strong, 46 something years later in 2022. While I did not observe Comet West myself, it was the comet that  got me started. I joined the Black River Astronomical Society in the fall of  1976 at the ripe, young age of 22 years. At one of the first meetings I attended the guys were abuzz with excitement over the still recent apparition of Comet West. They showed me pictures and pencil drawings and one of the members, Carl Peck, an avid comet chaser, gave a talk on it. I remembered being amazed at his knowledge of comets and something he said hit home with me. Basically, he said that comets were transient creatures that roamed the very depths of space, some since the beginning of time. Comets, he went on,  held the key to all life in the universe and actually contained the seeds of life. Every comet, he said , was a once in a lifetime event in that every comet is totally unique unto itself. Even periodic comets, he explained, returning again and again, exhibit totally different behaviour over each individual apparition. That talk ignited a fire in my young brain, and I determined that night, so many years ago, to observe every comet within my powers.

In the early years, not owning a telescope or camera, I depended on verbage and pencil drawings to record my impressions of these ethereal visitors.  As circumstances permitted I obtained a telescope and camera and began capturing images on film. And more recently I've converted over to digital imaging.
I've run the gamut of emotions with my comets. For example, the 1986 apparition of Comet Halley was an abysmal disappointment, probably because the advertising media hyped it to such extremes. (Buy a telescope!!!) The other side of the coin, of course, was the spactacular outburst of Comet Holmes, my all-time favorite Comet.Another once in a lifetime event was the Shoemaker-Levy comet, breaking up into pieces and then colliding into the atmosphere of Jupiter. This was the first time in the entirety of recorded history that anyone had witnessed a stellar body colliding into a planet. I also listened to Jupiter's radio signal on a short wave receiver and was actually able to hear the disruption in Jupiter's radio signal as the cometary fragments impacted the Jovian atmosphere.

On this site I will display my photos and relay my impressions of the various comets I've observed over the last few decades. Some information will be quite in-depth and some will be just a casual brush. It all depends on my workload level at the time of each encounter, condition of my equipment, how good the apparition was, etc. For instance, Comet McNaught was one of the most spectacular comets of recent times. However it reached max brightness and size while in the southern hemisphere. The few weeks that it spent in the northern sky was in January, during a particularly heavy weather pattern that was stalled overtop my location for weeks. The only night it was clear during the entire apparition was January 10th. Thus I only have photos from that one night.

Additionally, I've seen a lot of really exciting events, some provided by nature and some manmade events over the years. I've seen comets breaking up in space, comets colliding with planets, comets being struck by eartlhy bombs, sattelites being placed into comet's tails to accumulate cometary matter. And I watched in wonder as the probe Philea landed on a comet and sent back incredible sciencs and images. This is an exciting time for comet chasers to be alive. I'm still waiting for that huge comet that will stretch clear across the sky and be bright enough to see in broad daylight..............

And.................I think I'll just keep looking until I find it !
#COMETS SORTED BY OBSERVATION DATES
1
WEST 1976 VI 1976 01/01/76
2
D’ARREST 6P 08/12/76 08/12/76
3
WILD 2 81P 1980 01/01/80
4
STEPHEN OTERMA 38P 1980 11/11/80
5
TUTTLE 8P 1980 11/11/80
6
AUSTIN 1982 G 09/14/82 08/17/82
7
IRAS-IRAKI-ALCOCK 1983 D 05/13/83 05/10/83
8
HALLEYS 1P 02/09/86 09/16/85
9
HARTLEY GOOD 1985 I 11/28/85 10/16/85
10
THIELE 1985 11/09/85
11
WILSON 1986 P1 5/1987 06/14/87
12
BRADFIELD 1987 P1 11/07/87 11/12/87
13
AUSTIN 1989 X1 04/09/90 04/26/90
14
SHOEMAKER LEVY 1993 F2 1993 05/17/94
15
HYAKUTAKE 1996 B2 05/01/96 06/01/96
16
HALE-BOPP 1995 O1 04/01/97 04/06/97
17
IKEYA ZHANG 153P 03/18/02 03/03/02
18
NEAT 2001 Q4 05/06/04 05/15/04
19
POJMANSKI 2006 A1 02/22/06 02/24/06
20
SWAN 2006 M4 09/28/06 11/22/06
21
McNAUGHT 2006 P1 11/12/07 01/10/07
22
LINEAR 2006 VZ13 08/10/07 07/22/07
23
LONEOS 2007 F1 10/28/07 10/10/07
24
HOLMES 17P 05/15/07 11/24/07NEOWISE
25
TUTTLE 8P 2007 12/23/07
26
BOATTINI 2007 W1 06/24/08 05/12/08
27
KUSHIDA 144P 2009 01/30/09
28
LULIN 2007 N3 02/24/09 02/07/09
29
CHRISTENSEN 2006 W3 07/06/09 06/23/09
30
WILD 2 81P 2010 03/19/10
31
McNAUGHT 2009 R1 07/02/10 06/12/10
32
HARTLEY 2 103P 10/28/10 10/15/10
33
GARRADD 2009 P1 11/23/11 03/10/12
34
HERGENROTHER 168P 10/01/12 10/16/12
35
LOVEJOY 2013 R1 12/22/13 12/01/13
36
PANSTARRS 2011 L4 2014 06/04/14
37
JACQUES 2014 E2 08/28/14 08/24/14
38
LOVEJOY 2014 Q2 01/27/15 12/08/14
39
CATALINA 2013 US10 11/15/15 12/07/15
40
JOHNSON 2015 Y2 09/26/17 01/01/17
41
LOVEJOY 2017 E4 04/23/17 01/01/17
42
TUTTLE-GIACOBINI-KRESAK 41P 2017 12/30/17
43
PANSTARRS 2017 S3 08/07/18 07/12/18
44
GIACOBINI ZINNER 21P 09/10/18 09/15/18
45
SWIFT GEHRELS 64P 11/03/18 11/04/18
46
STEPHEN OTERMA 38P 11/10/18 11/10/18
47
WIRTANEN 46P 12/17/18 12/07/18
48
SCHWASSMAN WACHMAN 73P 03/07/19 01/01/19
49
SCHWASSMAN WACHMAN 29P 03/07/19 01/01/19
50
IWAMOTA 2018 Y1 02/13/19 02/08/19
51
ASSASSN 2018 N2 11/11/19 09/09/19
52
McNAUGHT 260P 09/10/19 09/19/19
53
PANSTARRS 2017 T2 04/23/20 12/15/19
54
ATLAS 2019 Y4 05/31/20 04/16/20
55
NEOWISE 2020 F3 07/03/20 07/18/20
56
HOWELL 88P 09/26/20 09/28/20
57
ERASMUS 2020 S3 12/13/20 11/23/20
58
ATLAS 2020 M3 10/25/20 12/11/20
59
MACHOLZ 2 144P 12/16/20 01/14/21
60
RUSSELL LINEAR 156P 11/17/20 01/14/21
61
BOATTINI 289P 12/20/19 01/15/21
62
LEONARD 2021 A1 01/03/22 12/02/21
63
CHURYUMOV-GERASIMENKO 67P 11/02/21 12/10/21
64
ATLAS 2019 L3 01/09/21 02/01/22
65
ATLAS 2019 Y1 03/15/20 04/24/22
66
PANSTARRS 2017 K2 2017 05/22/22