Here’s How to Spot ‘Christmas Comet’ as it Zips past Earth

Comet 46P/Wirtanen will put on a greenish show in the night sky.

The Brightest Comet of the ear is set to put on a show for planet Earth.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen, the so-called ‘Christmas comet’ is now traveling across the sky and make its closest pass to Earth on Sunday, December 16.

The Comet follows a 5.4-year orbit around the sun and is visible in the night sky thanks to its greenish color.

While the comet is best observed with either a telescope or binoculars, NASA says that some people can spot the comet in the sky with the naked eye.

So, how do I see it?

Skygazers in the different hemispheres will have to look in different directions, but luckily, all can see the same stars and constellations, which can be used as a guide.

In order to observe the stunning cosmic encounter, find a place that’s free as possible from city lights.

Here’s a Northern Hemisphere view. Image Credit: EarthSky.
Here’s a Northern Hemisphere view on December 15. Image Credit: EarthSky.

The Comet is expected to appear above the eastern horizon on December 16th, passing between the V-shaped ‘horns’ of the constellation Taurus, EarthSky explains.

Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere need to look to the eastern horizon after nightfall to spot it.

People located in the Southern Hemisphere will have to look towards the northeast.

The comet will be just 7.1 million miles away at its closest point. That’s about 30 times the distance between our planet and the moon, according to the University of Maryland.

And while you may find this really far away, experts say it will be the 10th closest approach of a comet in modern history.

The below image, shared by NASA, shows Comet 46P/Wirtanen when it was still far away to be seen with the naked eye. It was NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the day and was photographed by Alex Cherney.

Image Credit: Alex Cherney.
Image Credit: Alex Cherney.

“From dark sky sites it could just become naked-eye visible though, as its 5.4 year-long looping orbit takes it closest to Earth and the sun in mid-December,” NASA explains the image captured by Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN).

“Fluorescing in sunlight, its spherical coma is about half the angular size of a full moon in this southern hemisphere telescopic view from November 7. Then the comet was about 2 light-minutes away or 35 million kilometers from Earth-bound telescopes, so the pretty greenish coma seen here is around 150,000 kilometers across. That makes it about the size of Jupiter,” the agency added.

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