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How to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen?

How to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen?


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I've got a Celestron Astromaster 114 telescope. I live in Los Angeles and would like to get a look at 46P/Wirtanen. Can anyone tell me when this comet is going to brightest and how best to locate it in the sky? It's my (perhaps incorrect) understanding that it is not especially bright. Any tips/hints/information would be much appreciated.

Source


Peak magnitude is "now", or a few days either side of the 17th of December. The peak magnitude is about 4.0 (so this is not like Hale-Bopp), (assuming nothing unexpected happens) it can be found passing the Pleiades over the next few days. The waxing moon will affect the evenings, which you should consider when planning observations.

In-the-sky have an ephemeris for the comet:

Space.com have a finder chart and general discussion


If you have, or can borrow binoculars, that is probably a much better way to try to find the comet than your telescope. If it's set up like the one in the image in your question (that I've added) you don't have a computer read-out for RA/Dec or any way to position your mount accurately so that the polar axis points at polaris. The bright skies in LA will make doing so manually a bit of a challenge, and lack of previous experience doing so will make it even more of one.

Go to in-the-sky.org and then to Planetarium view. Go to the bottom right and type 46P into the Find box and it will find your object's name and then display it for you. Turn on the Alt/Az grid instead of the RA/Dec grid and you can see that 46P is about 60 degrees up at 8 PM your time. Lay on your back and take some time to look around with your binoculars.

It should set your location to Los Angeles automatically, but double check that.

You can see that there are some very bright stars lined up to make your viewing easier. First is Betelgeuse the bright corner star in Orion (do not say Betelgeuse three times in a row!) then Aldebaran the eye of the bull, then the comet.

At about 4th magnitude you should be able to see it as a green fuzzy star, unlike anything else. You can also zoom in using in-the-sky.org to see the local stars. The comet is going to be moving relative to the stars, so don't make zoomed-in print-outs and try to use them six hours or a day later.

Set up anything you have around the spot where you'll be laying down, to block lights from neighbors or the street, turn your own lights off. You are going to be looking East-Southeast about 2/3 of the way up to the zenith in the evening, and 46P will remain high in the sky most of the night.

Have fun!

Oh, the telescope! Once you've gotten good at finding 46P with binoculars and have some feel for the other stars nearby, then try the absolute lowest magnification you have on your telescope and just look around slowly. Loosen up your mount so you can move the tube by hand, and scan around until you see the blue fuzzy blob again.


How to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen? - Astronomy

At the outset, let me thank @pranasutra on Twitter for bringing this comet to the forefront of my attention.

Varahamihira lists a peculiar comet in Brihat Samhita which rises near Taurus and then goes on to bisect the Saptarishi mandala. This comet is said to be associated with doom and it’s effects can extend to around 18 months from when it is seen.

46P Wirtanen is a comet which was seen as arising near Taurus in Dec 2018 and then proceeds to the Saptarishi mandala in 2019 Jan and bisects it. This can be seen here:

Path of comet Wirtanen 46P

The point at which comet 46P arose in Dec 2018 is near Taurus. seen here:

46P Wirtanen arises near Taurus

The comet travels all the way to the Saptarishi mandala in Jan 2019.

46P Wirtanen at the Saptarishi mandala in Jan 2019 Brihat Samhita: Ketucharah
The first part of the prediction The second part of the prediction

Brihat Samhita makes the entire prediction quite clear. In my next blog post I will describe a different phenomenon for a different year but with similar results.


The ɼhristmas comet' is back for another visit. Here's how to see it.

Just in time for the holiday season, a comet first observed more than 70 years ago has returned for one of its periodic visits — and this flyby of the "Christmas comet" is one of the closest in recent history.

"By my count, there have been only about 10 other known comets that approached this close over the last century," Paul Chodas, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told NBC News MACH in an email, adding that astronomers were excited about the chance to observe it.

The comet, 46P/Wirtanen, made its closest approach on Sunday, when it was about 7.1 million miles from Earth (about 30 times the distance from Earth to the moon). The comet hasn't come this close for centuries and won't come this close again for centuries, according to Chodas.

The comet should be visible for several more days — at least for those with the right gear.

"The odds are against seeing it with just your eyes, though there is no harm in trying," Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, said in an email. You'll have better luck with a telescope or wide-field binoculars, he said — just be sure to find a viewing place away from lights that might interfere with your night vision.

Wirtanen's position is constantly changing. Right now it appears to be near the Pleiades, a star cluster in the constellation Taurus.

Hey sky watchers, it's a good time to try to catch a #comet. 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys in the past 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope. More about the comet: https://t.co/2oLmcRu0OQ
Viewing tips: https://t.co/0bsSfKi9O6 pic.twitter.com/hLiuWcKyrr

— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) December 17, 2018

For specific instructions on how to locate the comet in the sky, astronomers at the University of Maryland have prepared a set of star charts. If you'd rather not try your luck outdoors, the Virtual Telescope Project is using its robotic telescopes for a free live-stream of the comet on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.

Comets are loosely bound collections of ice, dust and rock that have been likened to dirty snowballs. They move around the sun in highly elliptical orbits.

Wirtanen is about 0.7 mile wide and orbits the sun once every 5.4 years. It was discovered on Jan. 17, 1948, by astronomer Carl Wirtaren at the Lick Observatory in Santa Clara County, California.


Comet 46p/Wirtanen

I’m new to comet hunting but am going to give 46p a try. Since it’s supposed to be a bright “naked eye” comet (from a dark location), I’m hoping that I’ll have a chance to see it from backyard suburbia with a pair of binoculars or a 6-inch reflector.

I’ve heard this weekend is supposed to be the best time for viewing but rain is also in the forecast for the southeast. Will it still be visible for the rest of December?

#2 Eekkajj11

It'll probably be visible in your 6 inch until late January or the rest of December in your binoculars dependent on size of course. It's quite a diffuse object and has a faint appearance but it's quite easy to see and find. Obviously non-stellar. I have hinted towards seeing it with naked eye from my 4ish Bortle site but I never confirmed it. Now is the best time but it will be visible for a while.

Edited by Eekkajj11, 13 December 2018 - 04:43 PM.

#3 Astroman007

The comet is heading in a northern direction across the winter sky, so it will certainly be a feature of our skies for the rest of the month, and likely into the new year.

#4 havasman

It was very definitely and easily a naked eye observation from a SQM-L 21.14 site last Monday night. And it is also large when seen naked eye, much more prominent than I expected. Look generally S of M45. It is proceeding to the N so that will change over the next few months. It will lose brightness over time but it's going to be pretty easily seen for a good while.

Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels now in Triangulum is also well worth a look. Ephemerides is here - https://theskylive.com/64p-info and data for the other bright comets (38P/Stephan-Oterma now in Lynx, for instance) now available can also be found there.

Edited by havasman, 13 December 2018 - 05:00 PM.

#5 havasman

#6 mogur

The forecast here for the weekend is pretty good. Fairly clear and not too cold. I'm definitely going to give it a try with my 10x50's. Earlier in the night the moon and Mars should be good for observing.

#7 godelescher

Source: https://www.skynews.ca/this-weeks-sky/

The comet is heading in a northern direction across the winter sky, so it will certainly be a feature of our skies for the rest of the month, and likely into the new year.

#8 oakman72

It'll probably be visible in your 6 inch until late January or the rest of December in your binoculars dependent on size of course. It's quite a diffuse object and has a faint appearance but it's quite easy to see and find. Obviously non-stellar. I have hinted towards seeing it with naked eye from my 4ish Bortle site but I never confirmed it. Now is the best time but it will be visible for a while.

Thanks, I was concerned that after this weekend it may be too late. As far as what size binoculars, my 20x80's are slightly out of focus right now so I'll be putting my 15x70's to use.

#9 oakman72

Source: https://www.skynews.ca/this-weeks-sky/

The comet is heading in a northern direction across the winter sky, so it will certainly be a feature of our skies for the rest of the month, and likely into the new year.

That's great, I'll have a week off for Christmas so hopefully the weather cooperates.

#10 oakman72

It was very definitely and easily a naked eye observation from a SQM-L 21.14 site last Monday night. And it is also large when seen naked eye, much more prominent than I expected. Look generally S of M45. It is proceeding to the N so that will change over the next few months. It will lose brightness over time but it's going to be pretty easily seen for a good while.

Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels now in Triangulum is also well worth a look. Ephemerides is here - https://theskylive.com/64p-info and data for the other bright comets (38P/Stephan-Oterma now in Lynx, for instance) now available can also be found there.

Thanks for the info Havasman, knowing that it's large and prominent gives me hope of a backyard sighting. I'll be looking for 64P and 38P now too.

#11 oakman72

The forecast here for the weekend is pretty good. Fairly clear and not too cold. I'm definitely going to give it a try with my 10x50's. Earlier in the night the moon and Mars should be good for observing.

It's good to see someone has a good weekend forecast. The weekends here have been either cloudy or raining for the longest but it's going to have to lift sometime. Hopefully Mars gives a good view. I tried a few times during opposition but there was a dust storm. I noticed in your signature you have a 16" Dob. Mars should be a real treat!

#12 sydney

Comet Wirtanen was low in my sky, but easily naked eye visible on Dec 10. The view in my 4” refractor was similar to the image I took, except for the comet looking grey visually.

#13 J A VOLK

Can see 46p easily naked eye with moon still up, outskirts of Flagstaff

#14 CollinofAlabama

Going for it tonight at our Public Star Party. Yee haw!

#15 REC

I went back in my astronomy files and found a shot I took I took of comet Lovejoy in 2015. That one was green also, but had a small tail. It was also in the same area of the sky as you can see M45 and the Haydes cluster. I think that was the last comet I have seen.

Attached Thumbnails

Edited by REC, 15 December 2018 - 04:22 PM.

#16 Astroman007

Wirtanen is the fourth comet that I have observed since September. My very first comet was Giacobini-Zinner. That was the one to spark my love of comets.

#17 kfiscus

Just be sure to coordinate your viewing efforts with the moon phase. As the moon waxes in December, you'll enjoy the comet more by observing later and later, letting the moon set to darken the sky. We in the northern hemisphere can look forward to a nice show as the comet steadily travels north, eventually becoming circumpolar.

As an added bonus, the Geminid meteors have been very active.

#18 AUricle

Wow! Finally located the comet, observing from 40 miles S of Chicago. Very high overhead now in the SW sky after midnight. In 11x80 binoculars, the comet is just visible in the same FOV as the northernmost stars of Pleaides.

In live time, to these old eyes, this isn't a "wow" comet by any means. No discernible tail. Dim core. Just a "fuzzy". I didn't even pick up the green color.

Still. it was FUN to look for and finally find!

#19 phillip

Wow didn't realize comet was out there till mentioned on local news channel!

Edge of town unable to pull it in with 7x50 binoculars-friend texted me he did just catch it in his binocs, recall his are about 80mm, but was just able to detect it.

Dang moon giving us fits at the moment, so a better look likely down the road.

Headed out with the 8 inch dob xt8 to near dark rural area. Much better look. Obvious now but wasn't spectacular. Was catching some lengthened shape. Conditions, Wasnt catching the color. But Liked the 30mm eyepiece view.

Tho naked eye object if moon wasn't there, find comets abit less bright than stated as are somewhat spread out.

STILL LOOKING FORWARD TO CATCHING THIS ONE LATER ON WITH LESS MOON!

Edited by phillip, 16 December 2018 - 03:50 AM.

#20 Daniel Guzas

Just took a quick look in the recliner chair with binoculars and I could easily see it. (Thanks Sky Safari for directing me to Capella. as the nearest signpost!). And it’s pretty much right at the zenith so I was hanging off the side of the chair to get it into view! (Probably should have just laid on the ground) It’s just an ever so faint grey smudge. Having the binoculars shake a bit helps confirm that the grey patch is indeed there. No sense of a tail what so ever. The full moon is unfortunate but I did indeed see the comet. No way I could see this tonight naked eye. If I had energy I would have dragged the scope out but with Christmas fast approaching (we are actually fooling our 3 year old that tonight’s Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas so we can have the whole day together as a family.) Gotta get out on the real Christmas Day and visit the family right??

Anyway it was nice to find this and put it on my list of objects seen. Even though it was not all that impressive. At least with the full moon. I’m sure with the scope it would have been much better.. maybe in 2 days I’ll try again if I have the time and energy!

Happy Holidays everyone! It’s a beautiful night out there tonight here in the NH white mountains. Cold and CLEAR!


Comet 46P/Wirtanen

I just got notifications on my phone about articles covering Comet 46P/Wirtanen, and it's portrayed like a major celestial event.

I'm not really into comets all that much, so please pardon me if I'm caught napping. Is it that big of an event? Any tips on when and how to observe this with my scope?

#2 Exnihilo

Edited by Exnihilo, 07 December 2018 - 11:39 AM.

#3 RyanSem

I think these "semi-rare" sights are always worth the hunt, but in reality it's not a huge event and it will be back in another 5-6 years. If you wait another week it will be even brighter and easier to see, and perhaps look cooler in that regard, but for now I do like trying to find it again every night to track its progress across the sky and its change in visibility.

#4 Codbear

Any time a comet becomes visible with the naked eye it is definitely noteworthy, but nothing on par with Hale-Bopp or, in my youth, Comet West.

For amateur astronomers though, 46P/Wirtanen is still quite the Holiday treat and well-placed for observation in the night sky for Northern Hemisphere observers in particular.

#5 havasman

I like to follow bright comets like this one in particular through the course of their travel across the sky and their brightness cycle. That can be very enjoyable if you like that sort of thing. If it doesn't flip your switch then it's no big deal.

Mass media's pretty hopeless in regard to how they portray celestial events. Standard asteroids passing by are fairly regularly portrayed as near extinction events. The array of Super-/Blood-/Wolf- prefixes for the moon is ridiculous. But if it can actually get folks to look up at what's in the night sky then I guess the hyperbole serves a purpose.

#6 DHEB

#7 44ye

Under the SHOW MORE there are several links to time lines and other information

Edited by 44ye, 07 December 2018 - 01:42 PM.

#8 Carol L

I just got notifications on my phone about articles covering Comet 46P/Wirtanen, and it's portrayed like a major celestial event.

I'm not really into comets all that much, so please pardon me if I'm caught napping. Is it that big of an event? Any tips on when and how to observe this with my scope?

Hi Divye, 46P/Wirtanen is presently in Eridanus and moving north.

Here's a site with great finder charts: LINK

#9 SeaBee1

I have never viewed a comet with optical aid (unless you count these abominable eyeglasses I contend with. ). My plan is to take a look this coming Monday, special event or not. It's a comet. it's got to be cool!

#10 starcanoe

What most folks might consider nice, if not impressive comets. come along every 10 to 20 years on average. These actually look like comets with the naked eye or just low powered binoculars. BUTT even for those you need to be somewhere reasonably dark.

Interesting comets like this come along every 5 to 10 years. but again decent skies go a long way.

Comets that might look okay in a big scope every couple of years.

#11 druhela

I'll try and locate it in my light polluted skies anyway, this upcoming week.

#12 Codbear

Mass media's pretty hopeless in regard to how they portray celestial events. Standard asteroids passing by are fairly regularly portrayed as near extinction events.

Dick - I made the mistake of taking a drink while reading your post. spit it out I laughed so hard. You hit it on the head for sure. Our new-found capabilities of finding 50 ft +/- diameter asteroids coinciding with the the omnipresent social media has created an irresistible chance for the media to hype every new discovery beyond reason, with the general public unaware of course that an asteroid of extinction capabilities would have been found years in advance.

One of my bucket list items is to be able to observe one of these little guys moving against the background stars in real time, so I get excited when a new one is found, and hop on JPL's website to generate an ephemeris to find location and magnitude. I'm usually severely disappointed because most of these pups don't even break 18th magnitude.

I am however in the process of improving my chances for something as faint as 14th or 15th magnitude though. I sold my 16" Teeter and Tom Osypowski is crafting a 24" f3.1 SpicaEye dob for me. It will go almost a magnitude deeper than the 16", so hopefully one of these future little guys will cooperate and I'll have another shot at it.

Edited by Codbear, 08 December 2018 - 09:32 PM.

#13 aeajr

Thanks for the help guys,

I'll try and locate it in my light polluted skies anyway, this upcoming week.

At this post I lay out some detailed steps and markers to help you find the comet. It is specific to tonight, but if you follow the process I describe you may find it helpful on other nights.

You can find that post here:

#14 astro4565

I just saw it last night with my William Optics 120mm f/7.5 APO. It was big and bright in my 22mm Panoptic (41X) eyepiece. It was definitely worth tracking down. I saw a slight tail on the comet. One of the guys took some pictures of it last night. I look forward to seeing them.

#15 Carol L

Well my rural sky cleared up, finally giving me a chance to pop out onto the deck with the 11x70s and see this comet before Luna starts strutting her stuff.

It was ridiculously easy to find with the binoculars, and looked like a globular cluster does through a telescope. large, with a bright core and diffuse outer areas. I went out at 6:30 and again at 10:00 - both times, it was VERY easy to see. There wasn't time to get totally dark adapted either, but it was still an easy target.

#16 kksmith

For me it's a rather big deal since the only two I have ever seen in my 58 years is West and Hale-Bopp. However, between my work schedule and frequent cloud cover, I may miss this one. I missed the one earlier this year for the same reasons. Hopefully on a night off I will get to see the dang thing.

#17 Illinois

#18 aeajr

Remember that those magnitude numbers can be deceptive. Magnitude is a measure of the light from the target but if it is a wide, diffuse target like this comet, the surface brightness will be a lot less than the magnitude would suggest.

#19 SeaBee1

I took a look last night with my Nikon AE 10X50s at about 21:00 local. Transparency and seeing were excellent. Used Menkar as my jump off point. According to SS6 Plus, it should have been one and a partial field of view south and slightly west of Menkar. I was pretty sure I was on it, and even saw a "fuzzy star" but I won't say with confidence that I nailed it. I'll have to chalk it up to:

1.) Just plain ol' poor eyesight. My eyes have never been all that great, and 60+ years haven't improved them.

2.) Just plain ol' inexperience. Having never seen what a comet should look like through binos, or any other optical instrument, I could have been looking right at it and not recognized it.

3.) And the most likely reason - a combination of 1 & 2, which is a double whammy when considering a dim object. Hard to overcome #1. More sky time should overcome #2.

I'll be taking another look tonight as SS6 shows 46P will be closer to Menkar, about one FOV south.

#20 mvas

Sunday night at 9:00PM, it was almost directly below Alpha Cetus .

It was an easy object using my 8 x 56mm Binoculars

It crossed the meridian at 10:15pm, it was very high and was just barely a naked eye object.

Just coma ( 0.5° diameter ? ) , no tail visible - but there is a very faint tail visible in photos.

It is heading "up", towards the Pleiades

Edited by mvas, 10 December 2018 - 09:23 AM.

#21 rigel123

Just in case you miss it, I caught it last night with my ED80T and also did a quick animation with the individual subs.

#22 Achernar

It's no Hale-Bopp, but yes it's worth the effort to go to a reasonably dark area with binoculars. It's appears through a telescope as a tiny bright region surrounded by a huge but very faint halo. It's nearly 2 degrees across now, so binoculars or a small telescope at low power are the best ways to see it.

Edited by Achernar, 12 December 2018 - 08:14 PM.

#23 geovermont

I just came in from viewing the comet. I waited until the moon set, then it was easy to pick out in my 7x35 binoculars. Once I knew where it was, I could see it with naked eye, direct vision. It's a fuzzy patch, but a pretty good one. I'm in a rural part of central Vermont, with minor bit of light pollution. A cold night (-3 degrees F). I also saw 6 Geminid meteors in about a half hour. Right now it feels good to be back inside near the wood stove.

#24 MalVeauX

I just got notifications on my phone about articles covering Comet 46P/Wirtanen, and it's portrayed like a major celestial event.

I'm not really into comets all that much, so please pardon me if I'm caught napping. Is it that big of an event? Any tips on when and how to observe this with my scope?

I just looked at it under a green zone sky in an 80mm short refractor at 4 degree FOV. It looks like a faint diffuse cluster but without the stars, just the diffuse glow. You would easily pass by it thinking it was some kind of faint DSO of some kind, except that it's moving significantly differently from the rotating and every 30 minutes or so you'd look and find it's in a different orientation from the stars around it and that's a dead give away that it's not a DSO or star, and it's the comet. Pretty easy to find tonight, being in a triangle pattern with some big stars and M45. This comet doesn't have a significant visible tail at the eyepiece. It's basically just a diffuse glow that's moving. Images can make it seem a lot more interesting. But visually it's nothing like a major comet with a seriously long bright tail. Still, it's interesting to see, if you have a small scope or big scope, it's easy to find, but it's not super impressive, as far as comets go. But that said, it's something to check out. Not a major celestial event at all. Just something different to go take a look at, especially after the moon sets so you have a more contrasty background.

I used Stellarium and updated it to have comets and added 46P to it (link to youtube tutorial on how to do this). Makes it really, really easy to know where it will be, when, and to go out and spot it without effort.


Comet 46P/Wirtanen

The great thing about short period comets is there periodicity, if you miss a comet during one apparition then you can catch it again during the next one. However patience is required, because even with the short period comets one has to wait years between acts. When 46P/Wirtanen was last visible 6.71 years ago I was a young and eager comet observer. The only comets which I had seen during that time were Hale-Bopp, 2P/Encke, C/1999 S4 LINEAR and C/1999 T1 Mc Naught – Hartley. I would have done anything to see another and add it to my very short but growing list. I knew that 46P was visible back then, and where, but I did not see it. Something happened in my private life at that time which caused me a period of great depression. I could not even motivate myself to take the telescope outside and look so I locked myself away into my own world within my room until I managed to recover and return to a more resourceful state of mind. By this time the comet had now retreated further away from the Sun and had faded from the light grasp of my 8″ LX10 F/10 S.Cass telescope. I made a decision then and there that I would never let anything or anyone get in the way of my interests ever again. I also made a vow that when this comet returned again I would do my very best to track it down. This was a personal score to settle!

On February 24th 2008 the sky was delightful. After a long period of bad weather and hazy skies a passing cold front during the previous night had beat the atmosphere clean with Atlantic showers. This evening I had the 8.5″ F/7 dobsonian reflector with 32mm 1.25″ eyepiece set up in my front yard during evening twilight. The sky was 100% clear and dark. The waning gibbous Moon was far below the NE horizon and would not rise for several hours. My goal was 46P/ Wirtanen which was now well placed half way up the evening sky in the SW. Before dark I had plotted its RA and DEC onto my sky atlas 2000 showing the comet’s positions for the 24th and 25th. It was located within Aries in a very blank region of sky where Aries, Cetus, and the Pleiades meet. I put the comet’s position to memory then headed out during twilight to get dark adapted. I made sure my telrad finder was aligned accurately and checked focus on the naked eye star Almach in Andromeda.

I guided the scope upwards to Wirtanen’s location and began sweeping without success, twilight was still evident so I decided to wait until the sky darkened further. Meanwhile I began searching for new comets low in the western twilight through Pegasus but I was getting very angry and frustrated quickly. The head lights of passing cars and the security lights belonging to the neighbours had destroyed my prime search area. The telescopic FOV was a bright white glow and even in the areas away from the lights I was getting a bright ghost image in every field. I was furious with anger and after 15 min’s of hunting I had to stop. I was not in a good mood at all. I then calmed down and concentrated my efforts on 46P. I spent a long long time slowly sweeping for the comet using vertical and horizontal movements and still it was nowhere to be seen. By now a sharp frost was forming and despite wearing gloves my hands were freezing from touching the scope for such long periods of time. My fingers were red in colour and painful. I was going to give up then I gave myself a mental slap. I told myself that I was not going to leave the telescope until I found this comet. 20 min’s later at 20.00 UT the ghostly glow of the comet entered the field of my moving telescope. I actually said out loud, ”I got Ya. ”.

Wirtanen was no easy catch. The coma had a nice green hue and was of a fairly large elliptical shape with very diffuse edges. Difficult to tell where the coma ended and the sky began. The coma got slightly brighter toward centre and had a faint white-coloured soft stellar condensation. The comet was best seen with averted vision and no tail was detected. I suspect the coma may be larger than this when seen from a darker site. I made the above sketch at the time. I watched the comet contently for 30 min’s then it lowered into the murk and was gone. I was delighted by the catch, in fact, it made my night!. There are now no tense feelings between Wirtanen and I. The comet can relax and sail through the solar system at peace and I can tick it off my list and concentrate on hunting down other cometary prey!.

Mag: +9.0 Dia: 6′ D.C: 3 Elongation from Sun: 69.9 degrees. This is my 43rd comet catch.


46P/Wirtanen won&apost be the brightest-ever comet, but with luck, it will be bright enough to see with the naked eye. Of course, there&aposs no guarantee. You can maximize its brightness by observing from a dark sky site where there&aposs no light pollution. However, the easiest way of making sure you see it is to use any pair of binoculars. Your peripheral vision is more sensitive to brightness, so when you do find 46P/Wirtanen, try looking just to the side of it. If you want to make sure you get the best possible view of 46P/Wirtanen, find your local astronomy club using Sky & Telescope&aposs Astronomy Clubs Near Me tool. Amateur astronomers are sure to be out with their telescopes looking for this special Christmas Comet.

The Virtual Telescope Project, a group of remotely accessible robotic telescopes, is hosting a live online observation called "Wirtanen, the Christmas 2018 comet" on Dec. 12 and 16.


Archives

A short piece I did for my local society’s newsletter. ——————

46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years. It was discovered on January 17, 1948, by the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen, and expectations were high for the comet’s 2018 visit.

Many astronomers hoped for naked eye brightness reminiscent of 1997’s Hale Bopp, (which I remember seeing easily over the Albert Memorial from Queens Square, Wolverhampton. Hard to believe that was over twenty years ago!). Unfortunately, comet 46P/Wirtanen appeared fainter than hoped. At its closest approach, on the16th December 2018, it was only visible in binoculars from semi-rural sites. But even so, it gave amateur astronomers a fantastic, rare chance to study a comet.

With the new society observatory still being finely tuned, (and hopefully open to members to visit in January 2019), we’ve temporarily installed my 8” Skywatcher Reflector in the dome, and it was through this that I tracked the comet in the early hours on Monday 17th December. I took some very basic shots, with my Canon 750 DSLR attached directly to the scope with a T-mount.

The photos show the comet moving N N/W over a period of one hour twenty minutes. The comet was approx 11,580,000km away when I took these shots (only one second exposure time).

When you spend an evening observing, very few telescopic objects change in real time. Jupiter’s moons can change, and very often you see one disappear, or reappear from behind the disc. I’ve also seen lunar shadows creep across flat areas near mountainous regions near the terminator of the moon, and there’s oculations and eclipses, but even so, it’s rare to see something move in real time, astronomically.So it was a real treat to map, watch and image the comet’s path among the stars of Taurus on that Monday morning.
The comet will also be in the skies through January 2019.


How To See ɼhristmas Comet' 46P/Wirtanen With The Naked Eye

It may not be the star of Bethlehem, but there’s a bright green comet passing Earth by just in time for Christmas.

On a clear night, you might even be able to spot it with the naked eye ― if you know where to look.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen, a.k.a. “The Christmas Comet,” passed within 7.1 million miles of Earth on Sunday, its closest approach. But it should be easily visible for much of the coming week and even beyond.

“This could be one of the brightest comets in years,” Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release.

The approach gives astronomers “an important opportunity to study a comet up close with ground-based telescopes, both optical and radar,” Chodas stated.

According to NASA, the comet will be in the constellation Taurus near the Pleiades. Look for a blur in a Christmas shade of green, which will slowly move across the sky:

If you can’t find the Pleiades cluster, stargazing apps can help you locate it. Of course, darker skies and clearer nights will also help.

The University of Maryland has posted some charts and more tips to help spot the comet, and an observer at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles has compiled a chart that will assist West Coast skywatchers:

Here's a chart of comet 46P/Wirtanen, optimized for the west coast. I hope you have clearer weather and darker skies than Los Angeles has right now! The best viewing time is after moonset before full moon (on 22nd) and before moonrise after that. pic.twitter.com/t9tabWgaM3

&mdash Griffith Sky Report (@AnthonyJCook2) December 15, 2018

EarthSky and Sky and Telescope also have some pointers for spotting the comet, which was named for astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who first observed it in 1948 at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California.

The comet should be visible for between two and eight hours per night over the coming year, NASA said. The best time to see it with the naked eye will be this week. After that, you’ll need binoculars or a telescope.


46P/Wirtanen

  • michael_murphy
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I took this yesterday from Cape Paterson on the south coast of Australia.

30 60 sec subs with an unmodified Canon 760D and Starwave ED70.

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  • Kinch
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  • Mike
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I83 Cherryvalley Observatory

After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say "I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER".

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How green is that comet, Michael?

They must make comets in Connemara.

There is quite a lot of hype about Comet Wirtanen.
We might see it for Christmas in Ireland.

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  • Neill
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The hype around this comet will be the usual misinformed tabloid stuff. The reality is that it could reach mag +3, but with a large coma meaning it's true brightness will be dimmer than that. Still possible naked eye object. 2 key encounters for it - Pleiades on the 16th and Capella on the 23rd.

Starting to write the December guide. The newly discovered comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto) is currently mag +8 and has a very short observing window for those in the Northern Heimsphere before it gets too close to the sun and heads South, disappearing from view. It is in Virgo and visible from 06:00.

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  • michael_murphy
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Here's an image taken last night (5th Dec). 30 60 Sec shots.
The comet has sped up and brightened somewhat since my last picture.

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  • Kinch
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  • Neill
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Observers are placing the comet at mag +5, but with a coma of up to 2 degrees, it is highly diffuse. It is passing by the following below objects:

6th pm Azha (Eta (η) Eridani, mag +3.9).
10th pm Menkar (Alpha (α) Ceti, mag +2.5).
12th pm Omicron (ο) and Xi (ξ) Tauri, mag +3.6 and +3.7 respectively.
16th pm M45 – The Pleiades.
17th pm Psi (ψ) Tauri, mag +5.2.
22nd pm Almaaz (Epsilon (ε) Aurigae, mag +3.0).
23rd pm Capella (Alpha (α) Aurigae, mag +0.1).

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  • mykc
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I observed it using a 120mm refractor on Mon night and it was very disappointing. Admittedly it was from a suburban location with lots of light pollution, but the comet was just a faint smudge. Here's hoping it will improve as it climbs higher in the sky and brightens further.