Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (73P): News, Links, and Resources

Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (73P) is visible from the northern hemisphere, but we have little more time to enjoy it (unless you don’t mind stargazing between midnight and 4AM!) I’ve collected some links and pictures to help plan your viewing, or just enjoy some nice pictures from pro astronomers.

Oh, and just to be clear: contrary to rumors on the internet, this comet and the many pieces that are breaking off as it disintegrates will not hit our planet. If we are very fortunate, we might get a beautiful meteor shower, but it is too early to tell. This comet presents no danger to us.

Comet Schwassman-Wachman's path in the sky

Let’s start with some planning tips. Here is a sky map, courtesy of the Starry Night program, showing the progress of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 over the next few weeks. The red line is the comet’s apparent movement in the sky from about 40 northern latitude. You can see we are looking East, and the approximate position of the horizon. The points along the line and the yellow labels at each point are formatted as DD:HH, which I was unable to improve in Starry Night. So, starting from the top, we can see the comet’s position at 12 AM (midnight) on April 27, 29, and May 2, 5, 8, 11, and 14, after which it is no longer visible before midnight from my location. I’m sorry the labels aren’t more intuitive, but if you’re confused, think of it this way: Every point represents midnight, so you can ignore the number after the colon (:). Just look at the first number, and that’s the day of the month, starting with today. April is over in a few days, so the numbers go back down for May. If you’re still not sure, try this sky map at

Here is a good article in Sky & Telescope magazine, which is updated as new events (such as flare-ups) occur. It’s worth checking out every day for the next few weeks. A more advanced site for daily news of the comet is here. has a useful article on how to spot the comet. Spaceflight Now ran an interesting story with pictures of the comet’s breakup. And Wikipedia has its own encyclopedic entry on the matter.

Finally, some recent still photos, and one amazing Hubble movie. The latter is a must-see.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy Tips

One Comment on “Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (73P): News, Links, and Resources”

  1. […] of reasons, today was a great day. I even got out tonight to for some stargazing, but that’s another blog entry. Explore posts in the same categories: My Bicycling […]

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