NASA’s TESS Watched an Outburst from Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen. Image Credit: By Stub Mandrel at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0,

TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, has imaged an outburst from the comet 46P/Wirtanen. It caught the outburst in what NASA is calling the clearest images yet of a comet outburst from start to finish. A comet outburst is a significant but temporary increase in the comet’s activity, outside of the normal sunlight-driven vaporization of ices that creates a comet’s coma and tail.

Astronomers aren’t certain what causes them, but a new study based on this observation is shedding some light on them.

Continue reading “NASA’s TESS Watched an Outburst from Comet 46P/Wirtanen”

Comet 46P Wirtanen Rounds Out 2018

Comet Wirtanen
Comet 46P Wirtanen in Cetus from September, 2018. Image credit and copyright: Hisayoshi Kato.

One. More. Comet. Though the next great ‘Comet of the Century’ has yet to make its appearance in 2018, we’ve had a steady stream of binocular comets this year, including Comets C/2017 S3 PanSTARRS, 38P Stephan-Oterma, and 21P Giacobini-Zinner.

Now, the calendar year may have saved the best for last, as periodic Comet 46P Wirtanen takes center stage. Continue reading “Comet 46P Wirtanen Rounds Out 2018”