Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Comet 46P Wirtanen: How to view Christmas comet

Comet 46P Wirtanen: How to view Christmas comet

This makes it the among the closest comet approaches to Earth since 1950, and can even be included among the 20 or so closest since dating began in the ninth century AD. However, it is in the sweet spot to make it appear to be brighter than most comets.

It's going to be practically skimming Earth at a distance of just 11.6 million kilometres (7.2 million miles), around 30 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.

Although it won't be made any easier by the strong moonlight in mid-December, it should not be too hard to find 46P/Wirtanen if you know where to look, and when. The comet will be passing in the Southern sky, near the constellation Orion, according to CBC.

You've probably got a lot on. 46P/Wirtanen will be just below the Pleiades, slightly to the left.

Today's comet webcast is one of two by the Virtual Telescope Project (the other airs December 16, also at 5 p.m. EST), because, according to the project's director astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, this is when the comet will be close to its maximum brightness. The easiest way is to look on December 23, when 46P/Wirtanen will be just below Capella. You can maximize its brightness by observing from a dark sky site where there's no light pollution.

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Best of all, astronomers in Ireland hoping to get a closer look over will be granted front-row seats with the comet set to pass over Ireland on December 14th.

"It only takes a little bit more than five years, about five-and-a-half years to go around the sun, so since it was discovered in 1948, this comet's gone around the sun like 13 times", said Alan Peche, director of the Barlow Planetarium at U.W. -Fox Valley.

Anyone hoping to observe a comet from the ground should try and use a decent pair of binoculars. Amateur astronomers are sure to be out with their telescopes looking for this special Christmas Comet.

"We have dubbed Comet Wirtanen "the Christmas Comet of 2018" for this reason".

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