CLOSE

Look in December and see that 46P / Wirtanen has been closest to Earth since its first discovery, possibly making it bright enough to be visible to the naked eye.
Buzz60

Skywatchers will be given a special treat next week as the brightest comet of the year flies over the night sky.

Although the comet carries the rather uninspiring name "46P / Wirtanen", it is one of the 10 closest approaches to the comet since 1950 and the twentieth approach to a ninth-century comet to Sky & Telescope.

Wirtanen's closest approach to the sun will be December 12, and the closest approach to Earth will be December 16, EarthSky said. On this day, the comet will be "only" 7.1 million kilometers from Earth, which is pretty close to cosmic. (The sun is about 93 million kilometers away, for example.)

The comet should be visible to the naked eye, but the best views are likely to be through binoculars and small telescopes, especially off the lights of the city. "Be sure to find the dark sky in your search for Comet 46P Wirtanen," said David Dickenson of Universe Today.

An annoyance will be shining in the coming week of the growing full moon.

The comet and its coma (the fuzzy area around the comet) will be quite large – two to three times the diameter of the moon, Sky & Telescope reported.

"Remember, you are not looking for a sharp star-like object, but rather something that spreads its light over a relatively large area," said Joe Rao of Sky & Telescope.

With a diameter of about 3/4 of a mile, the comet is relative small. It will continue to zoom in at over 21,000 miles per hour.

Because the comet will remain at a distance of 10 million kilometers from Earth for several weeks, NASA scientists have a greater chance of studying it. NASA researcher Michael DiSanti said the comet's flyby will allow for detailed studies of how the comet's nucleus is exposed to more sunlight.

According to Universe Today, the US astronomer Carl Wirtanen was killed in the night He discovered the comet for the first time on January 17, 1948, when he surveyed the sky from the Lick Observatory in California. Because he discovered it, the comet bears his name.

Another good news: There is "no chance of the comet hitting the earth," said the University of Maryland Astronomy Department.

Read or Share this story: https: //www.usatoday. com / story / news / nation / 2018/12/04 / comet-46-p-wirtanen-zoom-across-night-sky-next-week / 2205179002 /