Brightest comet of the year will zoom near Earth Sunday

15 Décembre, 2018, 16:22 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Brightest comet of the year will zoom near Earth Sunday

This year's brightest comet will fly across the night sky this week, dazzling stargazers across the world.

"This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries".

The Christmas Comet's technical name is 46P/Wirtanen, discovered in 1948 by Carl Wirtanen. Comet Wirtanen has already been visible in larger amateur telescopes, and while the brightness of comets is notoriously hard to predict, there is the possibility that during its close approach comet Wirtanen could be visible with binoculars or to the naked eye, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

At its peak you should be able to see more than 50 shooting stars per hour originating from the asteroid, it added.

According to NASA, comet 46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years, so it will be back in Highland County's night skies in the spring of 2024.

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

'Most who ultimately locate it in their binoculars or telescopes will, I believe, typically describe it as a almost circular cloud, comparable to or rivalling the Moon in angular size and appearing a bit brighter and more condensed near the centre'.

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Not only do they occasionally grace our skies and put on a lovely display (I vividly remember as a child seeing Comet Khohoutek back in 1973), but they are also left-over remnants from the creation of the solar system - primordial chunks of dirt and ice left untouched and floating around in space for the past 4.6 billion years.

These constant swings by the sun come with a cost.

I've long considered comets to be the most fascinating objects in the heavens. But even now, it's currently the brightest comet in the night sky, and the brightest of 2018. It has a diameter of about three-quarters of a mile - a relatively small comet. "So that means watching this comet each time it comes near could be important".

"NASA-sponsored ground, air and space-based observatories getting in on the action include NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar in California; the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Maunakea, Hawaii; the Hubble, Chandra, Swift and Spitzer space telescopes; and an airborne observatory known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)", NASA officials wrote in a statement". The comet will look like a "fuzzy ball" in the Taurus constellation.

Scientists still don't know how Wirtanen came to be - if it used to be an Oort family comet that was perturbed into moving closer to Jupiter or if it broke off from a larger body in the past, Tucker said.

Wirtanen's closest approach to Earth will be Sunday, December 16, EarthSky reports. But the atmosphere around the comet, or coma, is bigger than Jupiter.

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