I saw a bright comet in 1959-1962. Any ideas which one it might have been?

Comet Arend-Roland appeared in June 1957, and Comet Mrkos in August 1957, but that's about all I could find in that time frame. There's a great list of famous naked-eye comets at JPL and for these two comets, John Bortle notes

COMET MRKOS, (C/1957 P1=1957 V). Followed with the unaided eye from Jul. 29 until the end of Sep., T=1957 August 1. Not discovered until just 3 days from perihelion. Spotted in the morning twilight of July 29th, an object of 1st magnitude with a short tail, situated in Gemini not far from Pollux. Moved rapidly eastward, passing due north of the Sun on August 5th. For several days around this date visible in both the morning and evening skies. During the 2nd week of August situated in the northwestern evening sky in the same relative position that Comet Arend-Roland occupied 4 months earlier. Comet of 1st to 2nd magnitude with two tails, the brighter one strikingly curved and 15 degrees long. Crossed southern Ursa Major and Coma. The comet faded very slowly. Of 3rd magnitude late in August with a tail several degrees long. In mid-September, when in Virgo, still faintly visible with the unaided eye at the end of evening twilight as an object of 5th magnitude. Comet lost to the unaided eye in the last days of September.

COMET AREND-ROLAND, (C/1956 R1=1957 III). Naked-eye visibility extended from mid-Mar. until mid-May, T=1957 April 8. The first brilliant comet to be visible from the Northern Hemisphere since Halley's in 1910. Spotted nearly 6 months before perihelion passage as a 10th magnitude object in Perseus. Moved toward the southwest. Observable only from the Southern Hemisphere in March and early April, rising steadily to 1st magnitude. During the latter half of April seen from the Northern Hemisphere as an extraordinary object in the northwestern sky at the end of evening twilight. About April 15th the head was of zero magnitude, trailing a 25-30 degree tail. Between April 20th and May 3rd comet displayed a bright, sunward-pointing anti-tail up to 15 degrees long! At the conclusion of April brightness had fallen to 3rd magnitude. Comet traversed Triangulum, Perseus, and entered Camelopardalus during this period. After the middle of May, when the comet had become a circumpolar object, it was finally lost to the unaided eye. For more information visit the American Meteor Society.


Copyright 1997 Dr. Sten Odenwald
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