At only 30-lunar distances from Earth, Comet 46P/Wirtanen brightened to magnitude 3.6 as it brushed by our planet on December 16th — just 4-days after perihelion (closest to sun). The anticipation of this close pass-by engaged the attention of many amateurs that observed and imaged this “dirty-snowball” in the weeks leading up to the fly-by. But the most iconic image of this comet’s apparition was made two-weeks before its closest approach to Earth.
It was ten years ago that comet Comet Holmes (17P/Holmes) livened up the fall and winter skies with a sudden outburst that brightened it from mag. 17 to above naked-eye mag. 2.8 on October 23/24, 2007. Its coma subsequently expanded to a diameter greater than that of the sun! Well placed in Perseus for northern hemisphere observers, it became an instant imaging target for amateur astronomers. Images often show it as a “ball’ because it was positioned such that from Earth, observers were looking straight down along the tail. Continue reading “Evolution of Comet Holmes’ 2007 Apparition”
After being photographed at the end of February, showing off 3 green tails, comet 2P/Encke prepares for the final act of this apparition: a week-long plunge through the stars of Pisces toward the western horizon and perihelion. At the end of February the comet had brightened to almost 8th magnitude. Encke’s orbit this week takes it between the earth and sun — which will cause it to reach peak brightness and then disappear from sight . Use the horizon diagrams here to help you spot it. Continue reading “Comet 2P/Encke’s Blaze of Glory”
This February, Comet 2P/Encke sweeps by the Circlet of Pisces asterism as the comet nears the sun along the western horizon. It’s easy to find in mid-February, as it appears inside a 5° circle centered on magnitude 4 Omega Piscium. It will be brightest late this month into the first part of March. Continue reading “Comet 2P/Encke in the Evening Sky”
Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova exits the glare of the sun and is visible in the morning sky. It will be only 0.09 AU from Earth on February 11, so it’ll be pretty bright — but also very fast! If you saw it in January, when it moved a whole 5° in two-weeks, you’re in for a chase across the sky as it starts the month moving 5° a day! Continue reading “Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova in the Morning Sky”