It’s almost here! This year’s brightest comet will fly across us next week, dazzling all stargazers around the world. The comet, named “46p/Wirtanen”, will pass relatively close to Earth at a mere 7.2 million miles away lighting up the dark sky. How close is that? Well, let’s just say the sun is about 93 million miles away, so you get the picture here.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen, I’ll name it 46P for short, is among the 10 closets comets that have approached Earth in modern time. According To Sky & Telescope, a famous astronomy site, it is set to be the 20th closest comet dating as far back as the ninth century! The comet will be so bright that it may be big enough for people to see it with the naked eye.
But, although it is the brightest comet, for now, it may be harder to spot in some areas after the heavy amount of pollution the sky has gained throughout the years. So, scientists recommend seeing the comet through binoculars and small telescopes, staying away from city lights.
Still, 46P will zoom past another astronomical marvel, the Pleiades star cluster. The comet and its coma (the fuzzy luminous area around the comet) will be relatively large, two to three times the diameter of the moon with a diameter of about three-quarters of a mile. It will zoom along more than 21,000 mph. Remember, you have to keep an eye out for something spreading it’s light out over a relatively large area, rather than just a sharp star-like object.
46P circles around Jupiter and back, making a trip around the sun every 5.4 years. It has a diameter of three-quarters of a mile, which makes it a relatively small comet. You can see the comments closest approach to Earth on Sunday, December 16th at 9:30 p.m and 10 pm. This is rare in a comet since most of them make an appearance in the middle of the night, so make sure you take advantage of this beautiful miracle! Lucky us, huh!?