Amazing Photos: Brilliant Comet 46P/Wirtanen Wows Stargazers

The Brightest Comet of 2018

Gerald Ghemann

The bright-green Comet 46P/Wirtanen is visible to the naked eye in the night sky throughout the month of December 2018 as it makes a close approach to the sun. It reaches perihelion — its closest point to the sun — on Dec. 13, and it will be at its brightest on Dec. 16, the evening before it makes its closest approach to Earth. [A Gift from the Cosmos: Watch Comet 46P/Wirtanen's Holiday Visit Live Online]
HERE: Astrohotographer Gerald Rhemann captured this image of Comet 46P/Wirtanen on Dec. 4, 2018 from Farm Tivoli, Namibia.

Flying Through Space

Gerald Ghemann

On Dec. 3, 2018, astrophotographer Gerald Rhemann captured another view of Comet 46P/Wirtanen using the same telescope and camera with the addition of an ASA DDM85 mount and at an exposure time of 16x5 minutes, with a result of this seemingly animated view of the comet zooming across the cosmos.

From the High Desert

Chris Schur/

In Payson, Arizona, astrophotographer Chris Schur captured this 60-minute exposure of the incoming Comet 46P/Wirtanen on Dec. 3, 2018, using a 10" f/3.9 Orion Astrograph and a ST10 xme CCD camera.

A Comet as Bright as Venus!

John Hattenbach/Twitter

On Dec. 5, 2018, astrophotographer John Hattenbach snapped this image of Comet 46P/Wirtanen from La Palma, Spain. At the time, the comet was shining at magnitude 4.7. Hattenbach captured this image using a 70mm f/6 ED refractor at an ISO of 6400 and an exposure of 180 seconds.

From Canada

Alan Dyer/

From southern Alberta, photographer Alan Dyer photographed Comet 6P/Wirtanen (lower right) on Dec. 10, 2018 using his Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR camera with a 35mm lens at f/3.2 and an ISO of 1000.

Speeding Across the Stars

Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

Comet 46P/Wirtanen is surrounded by star trails in this image by astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project. He remotely captured this view on Dec. 10, 2018 using the Virtual Telescope Project's Elena 17" robotic telescope.

Closer to the Cosmos

Chris Schur/

Astrophotographer Chris Schur captured this view of Comet 46P/Wirtanen on Nov. 29, 2018, from Payson, Arizona. At the time, the comet was shining at magnitude 5.5 (just barely visible to the naked eye) in the Fornax constellation. To capture this image, Schur used a Meade 622 Cometracker Astrograph with a Canon XTi camera on a Meade LDX5 GEM equatorial mount, along with a Baader MPCC coma corrector to snap this photo of Comet 46P.

A Unique View of Comet 46P

Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

Using a rotational gradient filter, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project created this image of Comet 46P/Wirtanen to bring out the details in the comet's coma. The image combines six 180-second exposures captured using the Elena robotic unit of the Virtual Telescope Project in Ceccano, Italy. Masi remotely snapped the images on Dec. 10, 2018, then added a 20 degree rotational gradient to draw out the jet-like features.

Comet 46P Meets Orion

Alan Dyer/

On Dec. 6, 2018, astrophotographer Alan Dyer captured the unique green glow of Comet 46P/Wirtanen at magnitude 4.7, shown in the top right corner of this image. To the left is the winter constellation of Orion the Hunter. Dyer captured this view with a Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR camera and a 35mm lens set at f/2.8. The image is a combination of three 1-minute exposures.

Tracking the Path

Alan Dyer/

Using Starry Night software, photographer Alan Dyer superimposed the expected path of Comet 46P/Wirtanen over an image of the comet he took on Dec. 8, 2018.

A Faint Tail

Alan Dyer/

A telescopic view of Comet 46P/Wirtanen taken on Dec. 6, 2018 reveals the comet's faint tail. Astrophotographer Alan Dyer captured this image of Comet 46P from Alberta, Canada using a Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR camera on an A&M 105mm apo refracting telescope.

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.