You can now buy the recently released book, Fall of a Thousand Suns: How Near Misses and Comet Impacts affected the Religious Beliefs of our Ancestors. It is available through iBooks and Amazon.


This website only lists information on modern-day comets and meteor showers. The book, however, thoroughly investigates how specific ancient impacts and near misses changed religious beliefs around the world.

Comet Wirtanen

Comet Wirtanen



The Discovery of Comet Wirtanen (46P/Wirtanen)

On January 15, 1948 Carl A. Wirtanen photographed a section of the sky at the Lick Observatory. Two days later, he realized that a comet was captured in the image.





Comet Wirtanen's Orbital Period

It took over a year to realize that Comet Wirtanen was a short-period comet that orbited the Sun once every 5.4 years. It is classified as a Jupiter Family Comet (JFC). It was given the formal designation 46P/Wirtanen, since it was the forty-sixth comet to have its orbit definitively determined.




Study of Comet Wirtanen

The Comet Hopper mission was a lander proposed to NASA. It would land on Comet Wirtanen (46P/Wirtanen) to study the comet's composition. It was one of three finalist-projects to receive $3,000,000 USD. One of the others was Insight, which was ultimately chosen. Insight is an unmanned Mars lander that will launch in March of 2016.


With Comet Hopper shelved, Rosetta, a European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft, will attempt to be the first organization in history to successfully attach a lander to the surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August of 2014.




Comet Wirtanen's Next Perihelion

Comet Wirtanen's next perihelion will be on December 12, 2018.




Will Comet Wirtanen hit Earth?

Although Comet Wirtanen has been identified as a potentially hazardous comet, it will not hit Earth between now and 2200 CE. That's not to say that Comet Wirtanen will hit Earth after 2200 CE. 2200 CE is simply the final date that a computer program for all Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) developed by Paul Chodas, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.




How close will Comet Wirtanen come to Earth in 2018?

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on December 16, 2018, Comet Wirtanen will pass 0.0777 AU (7,220,000 miles, 11,620,000 kilometers) from Earth. For reference the average distance between the Moon and Earth is .0024 AU. Don Yeomans and Paul Chodas, of JPL, have identified Comet Wirtanen as one of the comets to pass closest to Earth between 2000 and 2200 CE.


Comet Wirtanen orbit

The Orbital Path of Comet Wirtanen (46P/Wirtanen)

December 16, 2018

Credit: JPL




Size of Comet Wirtanen

The nucleus of Comet Wirtanen is .75 miles (1.2 km) wide. If the comet did collide with Earth it would have hundreds of thousands of times more energy than the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.




Comet Wirtanen's Meteor Shower

Mikhail Maslov predicted that Earth will pass through Comet Wirtanen's tail between December 10 and 14, 2012. It would produce a new meteor shower that coincided with the Geminids. In January of 2013, Bill Cooke of NASA confirmed that the new meteor shower could be traced back to Comet Wirtanen as Maslov had predicted.