Brightest comet of 2018 to pass the closest to Earth in December

17 Décembre, 2018, 14:10 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • The Famous

The last time that a bright comet graced Arizona skies was back in 1997 with the passage of comet Hale-Bopp.

According to Astronomy Ireland, a "Christmas comet" is due to pass unusually close to Earth, right in time for the festive celebrations. Just four days later, on December 16, a second webcast will show the comet's closest approach to Earth, when it will pass an estimated 7,199,427 miles (11,586,350 kilometers) away from our planet.

What is rare is how close this comet will be to Earth. It is also known as the Christmas comet because of the month in which it shows up.

This is when the comet will be at its closest and brightest for those living on the Emerald Isle. After the 1950s, this will be the first comet pass the closest to Earth and will be visible to the naked eyes.

Still, it won't be easy to spot without the help of a telescope or binoculars. The diameter of the comet is 0.68 miles, which means that it is 1/10 of the size of Halley's Comet.

For thousands of years, the night sky has been a place of entertainment and guidance. Comets are nothing but loosely bound masses of dust, ice and rocks. It was discovered in 1948 by Carl Wirtanen at California's Lick Observatory.

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Every 5.4 years, the comet 46P/Wirtanen orbits the Sun, swinging through Earth's skies on its way. From this moment on, its orbit is only getting farther and farther away, making this mid-December a little extra special for stargazers everywhere.

For more information on when and where you can catch the Christmas Comet in the sky over Montreal, head over to TimeAndDate.com, where you can check visibility at different times for different locations.

For the best chance of a sighting, head to high ground away from light pollution. Instead, it will probably look more like a fuzzy ball of light, which could prove very hard to see in a light-polluted sky.

Since it was first discovered, the comet has been observed nearly every year, but is tricky to spot due to its orbit resulting in it being faint, even with large telescopes.

Jason Meyers is a part-time meteorologist and big-time fan of looking up.

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