“Christmas Comet” 46P Wirtanen – 2018 Close Approach Information

Comet Wirtanen swings by the Sun every 5.5 years or so, and because of this orbital period it can vary in brightness and proximity to the Earth each time. This year however we are in for a real treat with Wirtanen’s flyby being the closest and brightest for the next 20 years and right around Christmas.

Even viewers in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to see this comet but Australia is well positioned for a good view during it’s maximum brightness.

As I write this in late Nov, Wirtanen is flying through the Fornax region but Wirtanen is estimated to be at peak brightness around December 16th/17th. At that time Wirtanen should be easily found by looking towards the Pleiades Cluster in the Northern sky after sunset. The moon will be around half phase at this time so it will be competing for visibility, though the hope is that it will be bright enough to prevail by then.

This simulation is generated by the amazing “SkyGuide” for iOS App, however Sky Safari for iOS and Android and other similiar apps will also have comet ephemeris that you can use to easily find it’s position at any time.

If you’re comfortable with entering RA and DEC coordinates manually into your GOTO scope you can grab the current details from the Minor Planet Center website. Just search for C/Wirtanen from this page.

46P/Wirtanen

(Dates and times below are in Universal Time)

0046P
Date       UT      R.A. (J2000) Decl.    Delta     r     El.    Ph.   m1     Sky Motion
            h m s                                                            "/min    P.A.
2018 11 29 000000 02 28 02.9 -22 21 59   0.130   1.072  128.7  45.9  10.0    3.30    027.0
2018 11 30 000000 02 30 44.5 -21 08 03   0.125   1.070  129.3  45.5   9.9    3.61    026.8
2018 12 01 000000 02 33 38.7 -19 47 09   0.120   1.068  130.1  44.9   9.8    3.94    026.7
2018 12 02 000000 02 36 46.3 -18 18 38   0.116   1.066  131.0  44.3   9.7    4.31    026.5
2018 12 03 000000 02 40 08.4 -16 41 50   0.112   1.064  132.1  43.5   9.6    4.71    026.4
2018 12 04 000000 02 43 46.1 -14 56 02   0.108   1.062  133.2  42.5   9.6    5.14    026.3
2018 12 05 000000 02 47 40.7 -13 00 30   0.104   1.061  134.6  41.4   9.5    5.60    026.2
2018 12 06 000000 02 51 53.3 -10 54 32   0.100   1.060  136.1  40.2   9.4    6.10    026.1
2018 12 07 000000 02 56 25.5 -08 37 26   0.096   1.058  137.7  38.8   9.3    6.62    026.0
2018 12 08 000000 03 01 18.5 -06 08 40   0.093   1.057  139.6  37.2   9.2    7.18    026.0
2018 12 09 000000 03 06 34.0 -03 27 50   0.090   1.057  141.6  35.4   9.1    7.74    026.1
2018 12 10 000000 03 12 13.5 -00 34 47   0.087   1.056  143.7  33.5   9.0    8.32    026.2
2018 12 11 000000 03 18 18.7 +02 30 17   0.084   1.056  146.0  31.5   9.0    8.88    026.3
2018 12 12 000000 03 24 51.1 +05 46 41   0.082   1.055  148.4  29.3   8.9    9.40    026.6
2018 12 13 000000 03 31 52.3 +09 13 15   0.080   1.055  150.8  27.1   8.9    9.87    027.0
2018 12 14 000000 03 39 23.9 +12 48 14   0.079   1.055  153.2  24.9   8.8   10.26    027.5
2018 12 15 000000 03 47 27.1 +16 29 17   0.078   1.056  155.4  22.8   8.8   10.55    028.2
2018 12 16 000000 03 56 03.1 +20 13 33   0.078   1.056  157.4  21.0   8.8   10.72    029.1
2018 12 17 000000 04 05 12.6 +23 57 52   0.078   1.057  159.0  19.5   8.8   10.75    030.1
2018 12 18 000000 04 14 56.0 +27 38 51   0.078   1.058  160.0  18.5   8.8   10.65    031.3
2018 12 19 000000 04 25 12.9 +31 13 14   0.079   1.059  160.5  18.1   8.9   10.41    032.8

Wirtanen makes a very close (for a comet) approach to the Earth

  • Occurs Dec 16, 2018
    • Less than 4 days after perihelion
    • The comet is near its brightest
  • Geocentric Distance
    • 0.0775 AU
    • 30 Lunar distances
    • 11.5 million km
    • 7.1 million miles
  • 10th closest comet in modern times
    • Few of the others reached naked eye brightness

For more information visit this educational website.

Send Us Your Photos!

We’d love to see what Bintel customers are able to report or view for this great astronomical event so please share your photos with us here or via our Facebook post.

I’ve also included a short video about finding and photographing Comet Wirtanen here. Clear Skies!

Dylan O’Donnell

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