On Sunday, December 16, a comet under the name 46P / Wirtanen will contribute 7.1 million kilometers (about 30 times from Earth to Moon). Although this can happen very far, it is actually close enough to see its green hue with the naked eye.
According to NASA, Wirtanen's flight is one of the ten nearest comet flights on Earth in 70 years. The Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, which conducts a scientific observatory comet campaign, ensures that "there are no comets to hit the Earth." So I wonder, not horrible.
It is difficult to predict the exact brightness and therefore the visibility of the comet. The comets are ice and rock balls that form the tail of the remains as they approach the sun. (The sun melt some material from the comet.) But the amount of material in the tail of the comet is not stable.
Sometimes the comet will have more material in its tail to reflect the sunlight and appear in the light view of our night sky. Sometimes it will not. It is also difficult to predict the spread of the tail of the comet. The tail widens the more, the more dispersed the comet becomes.
Regardless of this, "although it does not reach the glare of the visible eye, it will still be a great subject that could be viewed with binoculars or a small telescope," explains the University of Maryland. Wirtanen, named after discovery, astronomer Carl A. Wirtanen, is a "hyperactive" comet, which means that the tail produces more water than most comets. This makes it more likely to be bright. In any case, try to find the darkest point you can with this dark sky searcher app.
Comet 46P / Wirtanen
On the night of December 16, you can see Wirtanen near the constellation Taurus (bull) high in the southeastern sky. I recommend downloading a smartphone app, such as the Sky Guide, to find out precisely where it appears in your area. These applications use your phone's GPS to show you where objects in the night sky are.
And here's how it will move in the next couple of nights in the sky.
The comet runs through the Earth every 5.4 years. But this weekend could be the best time to watch in life. "This will be the closest comet, Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and will be closest to Earth for centuries," said Paul Chodas, a scientist at the NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
Scientists are pleased to observe the comet as it approaches. It is a comet, which is regularly enough close to the Earth to one day send a spacecraft into place with them. (This was actually the original objective of Rosetta's mission, which was launched by the European Space Agency. Rosetta ended circling the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko.)
They believed that the comets were the remaining materials from the origin of our solar system. By better understanding, it helps us to better understand how star systems are formed.
And if you miss the comet on Sunday, do not be afraid. It must also be visible for several more nights.