Christmas Comet will light up the sky on Sunday

18 December, 2018, 16:37 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • This 120 second image of the comet was taken Dec. 2 by an iTelescope 50 mm refractor located at an observatory near Mayhill New Mexico. The streak below the comet was produced by a rocket body passing through the telescope's field of view

"Sunday night we'll have partly cloudy skies so it'll be in and out if you're trying to see the comet", he said.

The comet, "46P/Wirtanent", dubbed "The Christmas Comet" is expected to come within about 7.2 million miles of Earth.

46P will be the 10th-closest comet to Earth in modern times, according to UMD data, though rest assured that there is no chance that the comet could hit our planet.

But while in some dark rural areas it will be visible to the naked eye, astronomers are recommending people use binoculars or telescopes to get the best view of it.

Try to find an area without too much light pollution for the clearest view.

The night sky will come alive this weekend when a green comet streaks by Earth on the heels of the Geminid meteor shower's display of green fireballs.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen reached "perihelion", which is the closest part of its orbit to the sun, earlier this week and will zoom close to Earth tomorrow, which is Saturday, December 16.

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Start with the three bright stars at the base of the pot of Orion constellation and move left until there is a bright cluster of stars called the Hyades that form an upside-down V, which is the head of Taurus.

The "Christmas comet" appears in our sky once every five years as it orbits the sun.

"Wirtanen's comet could easily be chosen again for another mission", said Jim Lattis, director of the University of Wisconsin astronomy outreach center, UW Space Place.

Carl Wirtanen discovered 46P on January 17, 1948, at the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California. Websites like Dark Sky Finder and TimeandDate can help you find a good spot and the best time to see the comet. "This is because the comet will be unusually large in angular size, as well as appearing very diffuse ... nearly ghostly". "This could be one of the brightest comets in years, offering astronomers an important opportunity to study a comet up close with ground-based telescopes, both optical and radar". The Virtual Telescope Project will also be live streaming the comet's trajectory on Sunday starting at 5 p.m. ET.

Taking a long exposure with a mounted camera of the comet may capture a more crisp image and reveal its tail, or coma, she said. But launch delays forced new plans, and Rosetta's probe eventually landed on another comet in 2014 after a 10-year voyage.

If the weather cooperates, Hillsboro High School science teacher Shannon Yochum said that seeing the comet shouldn't be too hard if one can locate two familiar objects in the night sky; the constellation Orion and the Pleiades star cluster, which itself resembles a fuzzy patch of light.

"We're getting a look at stuff that was formed during the formation of the solar system and has been out in the deep freeze since then", Lattis said to CNN.

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