Pre-Christmas Comet fun

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So! Comet 46P / Wirtanen (The original target of the Rosetta and Philae mission) is huge!

It’s apparent size is a little over 1°, making it larger than the apparent size of The Moon (or Sun).

It is also supposedly bright enough to be a naked eye object.
But being so big, it’s light is spread out over a wide area of sky, making it a bit more difficult to make out, especially if you have some light pollution, like me.

It’s not visible from my location with the naked eye, but it is just about visible in my 10×50 finder scope. Very extensive and faint, a bit like Messier 33 in Triangulum.

A pair of 15×70 binoculars really do it more justice, showing it much brighter and just how extensive the coma reaches out from the pseudo nucleus.

Here’s an image I took on the 9th of December.

Using the subs I took, I also made an animation showing the movement of the comet during the duration of the imaging session.

Travelling northwards (that makes a change!), 46P will at its brightest on the 17th of December.
At this time it will be located between The Hyades & The Pleiades in Taurus, so will be very easy to find.

Click here to download my guide for Comet 46P.

How big is the Coma? I have made a composite image showing the Comet against M42, The Orion Nebula. Both images taken with the same setup on the 8th of December.

While I was in the area, I wanted to do some more comet fun, so I wandered up to catch Comet 64P / Swift-Gehrels, which was just starting to cut across the constellation of Triangulum that evening.
It’s a lot smaller and fainter, at about 10th magnitude, but is still showing up very nicely in the image.

Just before I finished, I pointed the telescope towards Mars so I could capture Neptune close to it before they move too far apart from one another. Here’s the result.

All images taken using a 72mm refractor and a Nikon D750 DSLR.

Comet 64P’s path for November and December is below.
(Click on the map for a bigger view)

For a black on white printable version, Click Here.


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