Comet Wirtanen fades

Although the ‘giant’ comet Wirtanen is high in the sky, and is visible throughout the night, it is not a spectacular sight. Its distance from the Earth is increasing and it’s fading day by day. However, it’s still visible, and fairly easy to photograph as a fuzzy glow, even from average UK skies. The comet, which is still very close to Earth by comet standards, is not a particularly large on in real terms, and has not developed a significant tail. It’s visible with binoculars, and is on a par with many of the deep-sky objects in the winter sky.

Where to look

The comet is high up in the east in the evenings. Use the bright star Capella as a guide to where to look using the map below.

Track of comet Wirtanen
Track of Comet Wirtanen, Dec 2018–Jan 2019


Having found the right part of the sky, use the map below to pick out the exact position of the comet for the evening you are observing.

Positions for Comet Wirtanen
Track of Comet Wirtanen during December 2018 and January 2019, at 9 pm. Click for printer-friendly larger version
Comet Wirtanen
Comet Wirtanen (upper left) close to Capella (lower right) on 24 December. Photo: Robin Scagell

For more information about Comet Wirtanen, see our  earlier news story.