‘Christmas comet’ - the year’s brightest - to pass by Earth this weekend

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The campaign predicts excellent observation conditions and said the comet should be visible "most of the night around close approach" in the northern and southern hemispheres.

The comet, "46P/Wirtanent", dubbed "The Christmas Comet" is expected to come within about 7.2 million miles of Earth.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen began brightening in November, but it will make its closest approach to Earth on Sunday and be visible with the naked eye.

"This comet 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 46P/Wirtanen could be visible with binoculars or to the naked eye".

To catch a glimpse of 46P, you'll want to be in an area without much light pollution.

Earth Sky reports the comet's closest approach to Earth will be Sunday and people should be able to view it between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

The night sky will come alive this weekend when a green comet streaks by Earth on the heels of the Geminid meteor shower's display of green fireballs. Because passing by Jupiter perturbs the comet, astronomers know that its trajectory has changed over the years; specifically, Wirtanen had two close brushes with Jupiter, in April 1972 and February 1984, that moved the comet's orbit 50 million miles (80.5 million kilometers) closer to the sun, as well as closer to Earth's orbit, Rao said in his article.

Meteor shower and comet to light up seasonal skies

However, anyone hoping to load on gold, frankincense and myrrh before heading out to follow the comet and find their saviour should probably just ask Waze for directions instead. It will also tell you in what part of the sky to look.

This animation shows one hour of Comet 46P/Wirtanen's motion on the night of December 9, 2018, when it was near the border separating the constellations Eridanus and Cetus. It is a member of the Jupiter family of comets - their farthest point from the sun being near the orbit of Jupiter.

"Wirtanen's comet could easily be chosen again for another mission", says Lattis.

'And even for those who are blessed with dark and starry skies, finding the comet could prove to be a bit of a challenge'.

Carl Wirtanen discovered 46P on January 17, 1948, at the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California.

So why does the comet look fuzzy or ghostly? "So that means watching this comet each time it comes near could be important". This would make it the brightest comet of the past few years.

"We're getting a look at stuff that was formed during the formation of the solar system and has been out in the deep freeze since then", Lattis says.

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