On Sunday, December 16th, the comet called 46P / Wirtanen goes 7.1 million miles from Earth (about 30 times the Earth to the moon). Although it may sound very far, it is actually close enough so that we can potentially see our green tail with a sharp eye.
According to NASA, the Wirtanen Flight will be one of the top ten cosmetology flights for 70 years. The Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, which leads the comet's scientific observation campaign, convinces us that there is no "possibility that the comet gets to Earth." So it looks amazing, not horror.
It is difficult to predict the precision of brilliance comets and thus visibility. Comets are ice and rocky balls that are formed from debris axes when they are exposed to the sun. (The sun is spreading some material at the comet.) However, the amount of material in the comet's tail is not stable.
Sometimes comet has more material tail to reflect the sunlight and show bright night in the sky. Sometimes it will not. It may also be difficult to predict the spread of comet tail. The more the tail is dispersed, the more distorted becomes the comet.
Regardless, "even if it does not come with the naked eye brightness, it will still be a great thing to watch with a binocular or a small telescope," explains Maryland University. Astronomers Carl A. Wirtanen, named after its discoverer, is a "hyperactive" comet, which means that its tail makes up more water than most comets. This makes the brightness possible. In any case, try to find the darkest place you can use with this Dark Sky Explorer app.
Comet 46P / Wirtanen Road
On the night of December 16th, you can search for Wirtanen near the constellation Taurus (bull) in the high southeast sky. I would recommend downloading a smartphone's astronomy app, such as Sky Guide, to find out exactly where to look around. These apps use the phone's GPS to show where the objects are in the night sky.
And here it is seen how it will move in the next few nights in the sky.
Comet moving across the Earth every 5.4 years. But this weekend could be the best time to see it in a lifetime. "It will be the closest comet, Virtanen has gone to Earth for centuries, and it's coming to Earth for centuries," said Paul Chodas, a scientist at NASA's Center for Earth Object Studies, in a press statement.
Scientists are glad to watch a comet when it comes. It is a comet that is regularly approaching Earth, that one day we could send a spacecraft to meet with it. (This was actually the original purpose of the Rosetta mission launched by the European Space Agency. Rosetta stopped at the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko.)
Comet is considered to be the lasting material of our solar system. Understanding them better helps us better understand how radiation systems are formed.
And if you get to the comet on Sunday, do not be afraid. It is also visible for a few more nights.