Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught

The brightest comet to be seen in 42 years approached to within 0.17 AU of the Sun on 12 January 2007. Predictions of a bright comet proved correct, and the comet put on a magnificent display for southern hemisphere observers.

Photo by Michael Mattiazzo

Quick facts

Comet McNaught is not an atmospheric phenomenon. It is a solar system body that was situated 135 to 150 million kms from the Earth at its closest approach. The moon is 300,000kms away for comparison.

  • The head is about 10-20 kms across (bigger than Mt Everest)
  • The inner coma surrounding the head is over 4 times larger than Earth with the full coma size likely to be half as large as the Sun.
  • The tail stretched 0.2 AU, or 30 million kms from the head out to space (assuming 15 degrees).
  • Enormous tons of water vapour and dust are being emitted from the comet every second. The exact figure is not known.
  • Comets developed in the outer solar system, are therefore icy, gassy, dusty objects.
  • The comet was closest to Earth on 15 January 2007 at 122 million kms distant.
  • The comet will not return.


The finest image taken of the comet so far has been by its discoverer. Visit Rob McNaught's web site for his images.

The following photos of Comet McNaught were taken by ASSA members and the public between 15 - 22 January 2007.

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