In December of 2018 Comet 46P/Wirtanen flew by the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus. Also known as the Seven Sisters, this star cluster is one of the closest to Earth at a distance of about 444 light years away. The extra hot and luminous stars cast their light on the nearby reflection nebula, which gives it the blue color. Comet 46P/Wirtanen was at it's closest approach just 7.2 million miles (11.5 million km) away from Earth. This makes it one of the top 10 closest comet encounters of the Space Age. While they look the same size in this image, the comet is quite a bit fainter, just barely detectable to the naked eye. The nucleus of the comet is less than 1 mile wide, but it's diffuse coma (cometary atmosphere) is larger than the planet Jupiter.
- Kevin Palmer
- Image Size
- 5005x3346 / 17.9MB
- Contained in galleries
- Recent Work, Wyoming, Night Sky