'Christmas comet' zooming 'near' Earth this weekend

18 December, 2018, 16:39 | Author: Emilio Conner
  • Periodic comet 46P  Wirtanen is passing close to Earth

It will come relatively close in scientific terms - seven million miles away.

Chodas said, "Comet Wirtanen has already been visible in larger amateur telescopes, and while the brightness of comets is notoriously hard to predict, there is the possibility that during its close approach comet Wirtanen could be visible with binoculars or to the naked eye".

Binoculars give a much better view.

Though it measures just three-fourths of a mile across, the Christmas comet will put on quite a show this time around.

In that time, the comet will have gradually moved towards the northern sky.

Comet 46P was originally chosen by the European Space Agency to land the Rosetta probe on its surface, but launch delays caused a new target to be selected. It continued its journey through the solar system to snap detailed pictures of a second comet, Hartley 2. Over the years, some comets that were predicted to be very bright disappointed, while others that weren't expected to be special overachieved.

This picture taken from Paris region with a telescope on December 3, 2018 shows the 46P/Wirtanen comet as it will come closer to Earth on December 16, 2018.

Directions to spot the 46P  Wirtanen comet passing Earth
SUPPLIEDDirections to spot the 46P Wirtanen comet passing Earth

"The fact that it's brighter means we can study a lot of different gas types that we normally can't study because they're too faint", Farnham said, adding that researchers could learn more about where the comet formed and how it evolved.

Because of the significance of this comet's proximity for learning more about the solar system, Bodewits is using as many resources as he can to study it. That's the comet - let's hope we get some clearing on at least one of our two weekend nights!

However, experts say it's not going to collide with Earth, so no need to worry.

If your'e up to a challenge, there's comet to be seen the next clear, reasonably dark night.

"Follow Orion's arm through his bow to the right and look for a fuzzy blob that is green compared to the stars around it", he said.

Within the continental United States, the comet will be visible most of the night starting from dusk until early morning.

The brightest comet is set to make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and one may even be able to see it without a telescope on Sunday (December 16), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.

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