Sunday 9 December 2018

Brightest comet of the year to appear in the night sky

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A comet set to make its closest approach to Earth next week is now the brightest comet in the night sky, casting a green glow overhead that stretches as wide as Jupiter.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen follows a 5.4-year orbit, and is already close enough to be seen with a telescope or even binoculars.
And, NASA says you may soon be able to spot it with the naked eye.
The bright green comet will be closest to Earth on December 16, when it will be best visible just above the eastern horizon.
NASA shared a breathtaking photo just last month of the comet glowing brightly in the sky as it makes its way toward its close approaches with the sun and Earth.
It will be closest to the sun on the 12th, according to Earthsky, before nearing our planet a few days later.
The image, shared as part of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, shows comet 46P/Wirtanen when it was still too far away to be seen with the naked eye.
‘From dark sky sites it could just become naked-eye visible though, as its 5.4 year-long looping orbit takes it closest to Earth and the sun in mid December,’ NASA explains of the photo, captured by Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN).
‘Fluorescing in sunlight, its spherical coma is about half the angular size of a full moon in this southern hemisphere telescopic view from November 7.
‘Then the comet was about 2 light-minutes away or 35 million kilometers from Earth-bound telescopes, so the pretty greenish coma seen here is around 150,000 kilometers across.
‘That makes it about the size of Jupiter.’
Amateur astronomers have also been tracking the object as it makes its way closer to our planet.
Twitter user Terry Lovejoy pointed out earlier this week that Comet 46P is now close enough to be seen even areas with a lot of light pollution.
But for the best viewing opportunity, you’ll want to find a spot next week with little interference from city lights.

Daily Mail

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