Happy Holidays from Comet 46P/Wirtanen

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.

46P/Wirtanen, Moon Size Comparison by flickr user Mike Broussard. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Imaged with Tele Vue-85 APO and Tele Vue TRF-2008 0.8x Reducer/Flattener for f/5.6. Camera used was Canon T3 with IDAS-LPS (Light Pollution) filter. Exposure at ISO 3200 for 40×120 sec. Image taken Dec 2, 2018 at 03:05 UT.

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Evolution of Comet Holmes’ 2007 Apparition

Comet Holmes (17P/Holmes) livened up the fall and winter skies with a sudden outburst in 2007. Images credit and copyright by James Burnell with Tele Vue TV-NP127is telescope

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”

Comet 2P/Encke’s Blaze of Glory

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”

Comet 2P/Encke in the Evening Sky

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 in the Morning Sky

 

Crop of NP101is image of Comet 45P/H-M-P. © 2011 Björn Gludau.

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”