The Wirtanen//46P Comet is the brightest comet and it is expected to light up the December sky. It is also known as the Christmas comet because of the month in which it shows up.
The 46P comet was discovered back on January 17, 1948 and it was observed by Carl Wirtanen. The discovery was made at the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California.
The orbital period of the comet is approx. 5.5 years. On December 16 the comet will be 7 million miles from Earth, which means that you should be able to see it with the naked eye.
How to spot it?
The National Space Centre in the United Kingdom offered more explanations regarding the aspect of the comet:
When the comet is at its closest (and brightest) to Earth, it’s also being vaporized by the Sun, shedding reflective dust and vapor that could make it even brighter.
It will appear as a fuzzy point of light that moves across our winter night sky throughout the month of December. Nevertheless, if you’re under a clear night sky away from city lights, you should be able to spot 46P/Wirtanen throughout December if you know where to look.
Since the comet is relatively small, there will be no major tail that can be observed. The diameter of the comet is 0.68 miles, which means that it is 1/10 of the size of Halley’s Comet.
In order to spot the Wirtanen comet, you need to go to a place where there is little light pollution. The comet will pass near the constellation Orion, in the southern sky. If you want to see it clearly, a telescope or binoculars are recommened.
The best date to spot it is on December 12, when the 46P will pass the closest point in its orbit around the sun. The best moment to see it will be at 8:06 a.m. ET on Dec. 16.
Nora Reynolds is a major in biology and a minor in Biological Basis of Behavior, writing about science in general. She also likes to try new gadgets and sports about the AI new era.