Friday, 18 January, 2019

The Famous "Christmas Comet" Will Fly Through Skies Above Canada This Weekend

It might be the only chance to spot the comet this close to earth for the next 500 years It might be the only chance to spot the comet this close to earth for the next 500 years
Theresa Hayes | 13 December, 2018, 20:03

Stargazers have something extra to look forward to this holiday season: The brightest comet of 2018 will pass closest to Earth on December 16. That's about 30 times the distance between Earth and the moon, and about as close as comets ever get, but nowhere close enough to be risky.

It's going to be practically skimming Earth at a distance of just 11.6 million kilometres (7.2 million miles), around 30 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.

According to astronomy experts, Comet Wirtanen is thought to be an old comet that has been around the sun many times. This makes it the 20th closest approach by a comet over the last 12 centuries.

Some have theorised that said star could have, in fact, been a comet. Find the three famous stars of Orion's Belt, and follow a line from the lowest to the highest star, and on to an unmistakably bright red star, Aldebaran in Taurus. However, it will also help if you know roughly where to look in the night sky.

But there's no rush, for the comet will be visible all night until 4:26am the following morning.

Usually, 46P/Wirtanen is too far away for us to see, so this is a real treat - the comet's closest approach in 70 years.

It's been visible for a few days from a telescope or with good binoculars, and will remain in view for another week or so - but tonight is the best chance for those of us who don't have any special viewing equipment.

The Sun writes that, "sky gazers can catch a glimpse of 46P/Wirtanen on Wednesday evening by heading to a dark spot and looking south, as the comet is so bright it will be visible to the naked eye". The paper states that it will be brightest in the sky on December 12th.

Expected to be the brightest comet of the year, Montrealers can expect to see the comet begin its pass by earth as early as the 13th.

Mother Nature is bestowing a fantastical Christmas gift upon us... However, the easiest way of making sure you see it is to use any pair of binoculars.