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Comet '46P/Wirtanen,' The Brightest Comet Of The Year, Will Be Visible From Earth Next Week

The Comet Will Pass By Earth Sometime Next Week

December 5, 2018

If you look up into the sky at night next week, you may get a glimpse at something spectacular. The brightest comet of the year will be passing by Earth, at only 7.2 million miles away. The ‘46P/Wirtanen’ as the comet is known, will be so bright, it may even be visible in some locations across the globe to the naked eye.

While 7.2 million miles away may seem like a long distance away from us, the comet will actually be in the top 10 of closest comets to approach Earth, in the modern era. ‘46P/Wirtanen’ will be the 20th closest comet to approach Earth since the ninth century. The closeness when passing is what will make the comet visible, and making it the year’s brightest comet.

The comet will be easy to spot out in open areas, but will become tougher in locations that suffer from light pollution. According to Joe Rao, “Even for those who are blessed with dark and starry skies, finding the comet could prove to be a bit of a challenge. This is because the comet will be unusually large in angular size, as well as appearing very diffuse ...  almost ghostly."

Rao noted to those who plan on looking into the sky for the comet that, “you're not looking for a sharp star-like object, but rather something which is spreading its light out over a relatively large area." Using a telescope makes finding the comet much easier. As one twitter user noted, “using the very impressive Olympus 8mm f1.8 fisheye lens” they were able to capture a picture of the bright light, even in a light polluted location.

The ‘46P/Wirtanen’ will pass by the Pleiades star cluster as well, during the annual Germinid meteor shower. This will give stargazers plenty to look out for next week. The comet, which travels around Jupiter and back every 5.4 years, is a relatively small comet. However, due to its closeness to Earth when it passes by, it will be one of the brightest seen in a long time. If you find yourself outside at night next week, look up and see if you can catch a glimpse of the ‘46P/Wirtanen’ flying through the night sky.

Via CBS News