Another Christmas miracle! Astronomers have observed the historic flyby of Comet 46P/Wirtanen known as “The Christmas Comet”.
Possibly the most insane single exposure I’ve ever taken. Just as I asked my friend Jens to point at Comet 46P/Wirtanen, a meteor streaked underneath the open star cluster Pleiades (M45).
Jens – 150m
Meteor – 85 km
Comet 46P – 11 million km
Pleiades – 444 light years pic.twitter.com/Dz763tPefA
— Alyn Wallace (@alynwallace) December 17, 2018
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.
The comet was also filmed from the Observatory in Croatia`s city Višnjan.
My first photo of comet 46P/Wirtanen taken last night. You can see comet Wirtanen as a green dot in the upper right corner. To the left is the beautiful constellation of Orion.
— Göran Strand (@Astrofotografen) December 14, 2018
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photographed comet 46P/Wirtanen on Dec. 13, when the comet was 12 million kilometres from Earth (top picture).
In this visible-light image, the comet’s nucleus is hidden in the center of a fuzzy glow from the comet’s coma. The coma is a cloud of gas and dust that the comet has ejected during its pass through the inner solar system due to heating from the Sun.
And don’t worry if you missed it; it should be visible for a week or two.
Enjoy it while it’s here, because it might not be this close again for hundreds, if not thousands, of years!
Credits: NASA, ESA, D. Bodewits (Auburn University) and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)