The 'Christmas Comet' Is Coming to Town. Here's How to See It

The 'Christmas Comet' Is Coming to Town. Here's How to See It

Those who live in areas with low levels of light pollution will most likely to be able to see the comet with the naked eye.

The comet will be visible to the naked eye under very dark skies, as well - although binoculars or a telescope will allow a better view.

If you're up to a challenge, there's comet to be seen the next clear, reasonably dark night. 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.

If the weather cooperates, Hillsboro High School science teacher Shannon Yochum said that seeing the comet shouldn't be too hard if one can locate two familiar objects in the night sky; the constellation Orion and the Pleiades star cluster, which itself resembles a fuzzy patch of light.

"This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries", Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. NASA has even sponsored an observing campaign (led by the University of Maryland) to track the comet with professional and amateur astronomical groups.

You'll need to look closely, but this is rare opportunity so it's worth trying to spot it! It was closest to the sun on December 12.

The 46P/Wirtanen, or more commonly known "Christmas Comet", makes its return this weekend.

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Comet 46P Wirtanen is gracing our skies, in the late fall on 2018 and into the early winter of 2019. The comet will start in the eastern sky near 6PM Sunday evening, before traveling to its highest point in the sky to the south around 9PM.

The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the "Christmas comet", was named 46P/Wirtanen, after astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948.

NASA is pulling out all the stops for the comet's close flyby.

Radar telescopes can also look at the core of the comet to better understand its rotation rate and direction of spin.

46P/Wirtanen circles around Jupiter and back, and makes a trip around the sun every 5.4 years.

With these, the comet was a fairly large patch, brighter towards the middle; no trace of a tail could be seen. But the comet is an interesting object of study and helps astronomers better understand comets in general, especially those that are a part of the Jupiter family.