Christmas comet will pass close to Earth overnight

By on December 16, 2018

This 120 second image of the comet was taken Dec. 2 by an iTelescope 50 mm refractor located at an observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico. (NASA)

A “Christmas” comet will make its closest flyby in 70 years tonight, and you may be able to see it without a telescope.

The 46P/Wirtanen comet, named for a Wisconsin astronomer, will be 7.1 million miles from Earth, but NASA says it’s a fairly rare opportunity.

“This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This could be one of the brightest comets in years, offering astronomers an important opportunity to study a comet up close with ground-based telescopes, both optical and radar.”

The comet will appear very diffused, appearing as a “graying glow, Jim Lattis, director of University of Wisconsin Space Place, told the Associated Press.

There’s no set time to see the Christmas comet, but timeanddate.com’s Night Sky Map says the best time will be overnight, with a peak at 10:44 p.m.

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Ryan

You mean green glow?