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PHILADELPHIA (CNN) – This weekend the night sky comes to life when a green comet brushes the earth next to the green fireballs of the Geminid Meteor Shower.
Comet 46P / Wirtanen began to lighten in November, but it will approach Earth closest to Earth on Sunday and be visible to the naked eye. The comet will be on Earth within 7 million miles – a proximity that will not be repeated for 20 years. That is 30 times the distance of the moon from us.
The comet was supposed to be the brightest on December 16, as bright as the star in the constellation of the Little Dipper's hold, according to NASA. But even now, it is the brightest comet in the night sky and the brightest of 2018.
The University of Maryland's Department of Astronomy said comet 46P was the 10th closest comet since 1950 because few comets would ever be bright enough with the naked eye seen.
The "Christmas Comet" appears in our sky every five years as it circles the sun. It was the closest to the sun on December 12th. The comet was named after the man who first observed it in 1948, Carl Wirtanen, senior observation assistant at the California Lick Observatory.
"Look with a small pair of binoculars to the east or a telescope to see the green, blurred comet. It will be near the constellation of Orion or the pot, "said Brad Tucker of the Australian National University Research School for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Similar to a meteor shower, you should be in an area without much light pollution. See TimeandDate.com at any time between dusk and dawn to catch a glimpse of the best time in your part of the world.
If you can not see it, the Virtual Telescope Project will be watching Robotic Telescopes
Why the Comet Look Unsharp or Spooky It's three quarters of a mile with a core that's less than a mile wide, but the atmosphere around the comet or coma is bigger than Jupiter's As the sun passes, this icy comet essentially experiences some melt, creating the green glowing cloud.
diffuse nature of the coma and its glow may make the vision more difficult, especially if you use binoculars or a telescope. Astronomers have predicted that the comet will have a magnitude of 4.2, which means that most likely a dark, clear sky and a lack of ambient light are needed to see it.
Unlike other sightings of the comet, the tail of this comet will be behind it as it passes by, which means that we most likely will not see it until the tail develops a curve before its closest approach to Earth.
The Comet 46P was originally selected by the European Space Agency to land the Rosetta probe on its surface, but start delays resulted in a new target being selected. (Rosetta landed on the Comet 67P in 2014)
"Wirtanen's comet could easily be selected for another mission," said Jim Lattis, director of the University of Wisconsin's Astronomy Outreach Center, UW Space Place. "So, watching this comet each time it gets closer may be important."
Similar to the OSIRIS REx mission to study the asteroid Bennu, a remnant of the early solar system, Comet 46P provide similar findings.  "We get a glimpse of things that were created during the formation of the solar system and have been in the freezer since then," said Lattis. "When these things happen and we have a chance to study them, we see some of the raw materials that make up the Earth and the other planets and everything else."
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