Comet (73P) Schwassmann Wachmann 3

24.4 -15.5 06

A dying Comet

Facts about the comet

After its discovery in 1930 by Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Wachmann at the observatory Hamburg/Bergedorf the comet is 76 years later expected to be mag 4,5 at best, and to be visible with naked eyes in the middle of may 2006. Its orbiting time around the sun takes 5, 4 years.

The brightest fragments C and B (there are more than 60 smaller parts) will pass the earth in a distance of 10 - 11 Mio. Km. The fainter part E will approach to the earth in a range of  7,6 Mio Km. This is only 20 times more than the average moon distance.

The recent observation shows that the fragment B is falling apart and is splitting continiously. Strong outbursts and alternating luminance could be observed from our telescopes in Fuerstenfeldbruck/Gilching. The fragment C is stabile increasing in its brightness and no splitting was discovered until now. Fragment C has now the brightness of apprx. 5, 5 mag. Fragment B  is partly changing from 4,0 mag (8.5.06) to 6 mag.

In case of the near 'fly by', there is no danger for our planet but a meteor shower like in 1930 may appear again in May and June. But this time the earth will not pass through the dust trail in calculation. Nevertheless surprises are welcome! (12.5.06)


Further detailled maps under Winnies homepage

15.5.06 (UTC 2:30), last observations

Fragment B with a slim tail 

11.5.06 (UTC 2:00)


Fragment B with spreading tail

8.5.06, (UTC 2:00 - 3:00)

Passage of fragment C near M57

GIF, Movement of the comet


 tb´mrtb tb 

7.5.06, (UTC 1:00)

Nucleus outbrakes against the tail direction. The fragment B luminance increased rapidly to mag 4-5


Newton 12,5", Dig. 3040mm x3, 40sec, 800 ASA, 25sec ASA 1600, Canon 20D

6.5.06, (UTC 2:00 - 3:00)

Nucleus splitting in three parts of frg. B. (Martin Rietze)


GIF, Movement of the comet

5.5.06, (UTC 1.30 - 2:30)

Again a nucleus splitting of fragment B !!


 Newton 12,5", Dig. 3040mm x3 (Window left), 50sec, 800 ASA, Canon 20D

4.5.06, (UTC 1:00)

Fragment B is passing the globular cluster M13


Nikon Dig. 480 mm / 2.8


Fragment C. Nikon Dig. 480 mm / 2.8


The two fragments in the constellation Hercules. Fragment B (left) is passing the globular cluster M13. This high resolution batch is a composit with 20 pictures. (Nikon Dig. 480 mm / 2.8, Exp. 50 sec). Image turned at 180°)

3.5.06, (UTC 0:00 - 1:00)

The splitting of fragment B


The splitting of fragment B, The brightness has gone up from mag 8.0 to mag 4 , Newton 12,5", Dig. 3040mm



1) Fragment C, mag 6,8  2) Fragment B, Nikon 480mm / 2.8

25.4.06, 1:30 - 2:30 MESZ

     1     2 tb 

TB, 1) Nikon 480mm / 2.8   2) Newton 12,5" / 3040 mm digital, 90 sec , ASA 800, Canon 20D

*mag  = > light magnitude: Up to mag +3-4 stars are visible nearby cities with the naked eye, in very dark areas the seeing limit can reach up to mag +6-7.

The more higher numerical value is given, the more weaker are the objects. E.g. - 4,7 mag, Venus glittering; - 1,0 Sirius, brightest star; +3,5 M31 Andromeda, pale shiny oval)

All comet observations from 2001 up to now ..


Comet 73P/ Schwassmann-Wachmann 3


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 ©photos& text by Thorsten Boeckel (tb) , photos by Martin Rietze (mr)

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