Amazing Photos: The Comets 21P/Giacobini-Zinner and 46P/Wirtanen of 2018

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner
(Image credit: Daniel Bamberger/Northolt Branch Observatories)

A Comet Double-Whammy

John Chumack/Galactic Images

Two bright-green comets are swinging around the sun in September and December of 2018, providing spectacular views for skywatchers — both with and without telescopes.
HERE: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner passes by Capella, the "Goat Star," in this deep-space image by astrophotographer John Chumack. The comet will make its closest approach to the sun on Sept. 10 (the same day it will be closest to Earth), and it is visible with binoculars and small telescopes. Chumack captured this photo of the comet in the early morning of Sept. 3, 2018 using a 300-millimeter (11.8 inches) telephoto lens.

Comet 21P on Aug. 18

Alexander Vasenin/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Astrophotographer Alexander Vasenin captured this photo of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner from Moscow Oblast, Russia, on Aug. 18, 2018, at 12:32 a.m. local time (5:32 p.m. EDT, 2132 GMT on Aug. 17).

Comet 21P on Sept. 2

John Chumack/Galactic Images

Astrophotographer John Chumack captured this view of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner from his backyard observatory in Dayton, Ohio on Sept. 2, 2018. "Despite the strong moonlight, this image of the comet is shown with overlapping ion and dust tails," Chumack told He estimated the tail to measure about 1.25 degrees in length, "but it could be longer, as strong moonlight hindered the observation of any fainter portion of the tail," he added.

Comet 21P on Aug. 17

Daniel Bamberger/Northolt Branch Observatories

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner glows bright green in this photo captured from the Northolt Branch Observatories in London on Aug. 17, 2018, between 1:23 a.m. and 1:50 a.m. local time (8:23 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. EDT, 0023 and 0050 GMT).

Comet 21P on Aug. 22

Alex Guadalupe

Astrophotographer Alex Guadalupe captured this view of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner from Caguas, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 21, 2018, at 11:15 p.m. local time (0315 GMT on Aug. 22).

Where to See Comet 21P

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This sky map shows the approximate location of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner during its closest approach to Earth on Sept. 10, 2018 at 2:27 a.m. EDT (0627 GMT), as seen from New York City.

Get Ready for Comet #2!

Courtesy of Mike Olason

Comet 46P/Wirtanen appears as a speck in this telescope image captured by Mike Olason in Denver on Aug. 11, 2018, at 1:13 a.m. local time (3:13 a.m. EDT, 0913 GMT).

Comet 46P on Aug. 13

Gideon van Buitenen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which will become visible to the naked eye as it makes its closest approach to Earth in December, appears as a faint smudge in this image captured by amateur astronomer Gideon van Buitenen in Auberry, California, on Aug. 13, 2018, at 4:05 a.m. local time (7:05 a.m. EDT, 1105 GMT).

Where to See Comet 46P

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Comet 46P/Wirtanen will be closest to Earth on Dec. 16, 2018. Look for it above the eastern horizon after dusk all month long! It will be bright enough to see with the naked eye, and will look even more spectacular with binoculars and telescopes.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.