Comet 46P/Wirtanen

By Richard Harvey

46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years. It was discovered on January 17, 1948, by the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen, and expectations were high for the comet’s 2018 visit.

Many astronomers hoped for naked eye brightness reminiscent of 1997’s Hale Bopp, (which I remember seeing easily over the Albert Memorial from Queens Square, Wolverhampton. Hard to believe that was over twenty years ago!). Unfortunately, comet 46P/Wirtanen appeared fainter than hoped. At its closest approach, on the16th December 2018, it was only visible in binoculars from semi-rural sites. But even so, it gave amateur astronomers a fantastic, rare chance to study a comet.

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