© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.

46P/Wirtanen at perihelion

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Comet 46P/Wirtanen will make its closest approach to the Sun, at a distance of 1.06 AU.

From Fairfield the 2024 apparition of 46P/Wirtanen will progress as follows:

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.
20 May 2024 – 46P/Wirtanen at perihelion
29 Apr 2024AriesNot observable
01 May 2024AriesNot observable
03 May 2024AriesNot observable
05 May 2024TaurusNot observable
07 May 2024TaurusNot observable
09 May 2024TaurusNot observable
11 May 2024TaurusNot observable
13 May 2024TaurusNot observable
15 May 2024TaurusNot observable
17 May 2024TaurusNot observable
19 May 2024TaurusNot observable
21 May 2024TaurusNot observable
23 May 2024TaurusNot observable
25 May 2024TaurusNot observable
27 May 2024TaurusNot observable
29 May 2024TaurusNot observable
31 May 2024TaurusNot observable
02 Jun 2024TaurusNot observable
04 Jun 2024TaurusNot observable
06 Jun 2024TaurusNot observable
08 Jun 2024TaurusNot observable

A more detailed table of 46P/Wirtanen's position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of 46P/Wirtanen is available here.

At the moment of perihelion it will not be readily observable since it will be very close to the Sun, at a separation of only 9° from it.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of 46P/Wirtanen over the course of its apparition, as calculated from the orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC). It is available for download, either on dark background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats, or on a light background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats. It was produced using StarCharter.

Comet brightnesses

Comets are intrinsically highly unpredictable objects, since their brightness depends on the scattering of sunlight from dust particles in the comet's coma and tail. This dust is continually streaming away from the comet's nucleus, and its density at any particular time is governed by the rate of sublimation of the ice in the comet's nucleus, as it is heated by the Sun's rays. It also depends on the amount of dust that is mixed in with that ice. This is very difficult to predict in advance, and can be highly variable even between successive apparitions of the same comet.

In consequence, while the future positions of comets are usually known with a high degree of confidence, their future brightnesses are not. For most comets, we do not publish any magnitude estimates at all. For the few comets where we do make estimates, we generally prefer the BAA's magnitude parameters to those published by the Minor Planet Center, since they are typically updated more often.

No estimate for the brightness of comet 46P/Wirtanen is currently available.

The comet's position at perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet 46P/Wirtanen 04h31m50s 21°33'N Taurus 10.6

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 20 May 2024
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

12-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


12 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:39 11:21 18:03
Venus 05:22 12:34 19:46
Moon 17:27 22:55 04:11
Mars 03:36 09:56 16:16
Jupiter 05:31 12:44 19:58
Saturn 02:37 08:17 13:58
All times shown in EDT.


Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.


This event was automatically generated on the basis of orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) , and is updated whenever new elements become available. It was last updated on 27 Jul 2021.

Image credit

© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.






Color scheme