This year's brightest comet will fly across the night sky next week, and stargazers around the world will shine. The comet named "46P / Wirtanen" is approaching relatively close to Earth – only 7.2 million kilometers away.
For Earthlings, this sounds like an extremely long distance, but 46P / Wirtanen will actually be among the 10 closest ones. The comet is expected to approach Earth today, reports The Associated Press. According to the astronomy site Sky & Telescope it should be the 20th nearest comet, which dates back to the ninth century.
The brightness of the comet can be large enough for people to see it with their naked eyes. This would make him the brightest comet in recent years. However, it will be harder to spot in areas of high light pollution. Joe Rao writes in an interview for Sky & Telescope: "Even for those who are blessed with dark and starry skies, finding the comet might be challenging, because the comet has an unusually large angular size and appears very diffuse. .. almost ghostly. "
" Remember, "he adds," you're not looking for a sharp star-like object, but rather something that spreads its light over a relatively large area. "
The comet will roll past another astronomical wonder, the Pleiades Star Cluster. And it will happen during the annual Geminid meteor shower, which gives star gazers even more attention.
46P / Wirtanen circles around Jupiter and back and makes a journey around the sun every 5.4 years. It has a diameter of about three quarters of a mile – a relatively small comet.
Wirtanen's closest approach to Earth will be December 16, EarthSky reports. People should be able to see it from 9:30 clock. and 10 o'clock When the sky is clear, so the AP. This makes viewing much more accessible than some other comets, as it appears early in the sky and not in the middle of the night.
© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.