Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

A 'Christmas Comet' will be visible in Irish skies this festive season

A 'Christmas Comet' will be visible in Irish skies this festive season

"It will be at its closest distance to Earth in over four centuries", the space body confirmed.

The Mirror reports that Comet 46P/Wirtanen will make its approach on December 16th, but will also be visible in the days leading up to then.

A map from Sky & Telescope demonstrating Comet 64P/Wirtanen's path through the sky.

What is the Christmas Comet?

Compare that to Halley's Comet, which only appears in the solar system every 88 years. That's because on that date 46P/Wirtanen reaches what astronomers call perihelion, when it's nearest to the sun, so it has the maximum amount of sunlight reflecting from it.

This is why the tiny comet - measuring just three quarters of a mile - is visible to the naked eye. It will change position in the sky significantly each night because it's so close to Earth.

Some have theorised that said star could have, in fact, been a comet. Tonight, a line between the stars Saiph and Rigel in the easy-to-spot constellation Orion points to the comet.

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. 46P/Wirtanen will be just below the Pleiades, slightly to the left.

"We want to give the general public a close up look at this comet in powerful telescopes". The easiest way is to look on December 23, when 46P/Wirtanen will be just below Capella.

For more information about how to see the comet, watch the video below. "It'd be really great if you could see it with your naked eye, but I don't want anybody to have to get huge binoculars, any binoculars will help", said Peche. Of course, there's no guarantee. The paper states that it will be brightest in the sky on December 12th.

Anyone hoping to observe a comet from the ground should try and use a decent pair of binoculars.

We don't yet know whether it's going to be bright enough to be visible by the naked eye this time around. Amateur astronomers are sure to be out with their telescopes looking for this special Christmas Comet.

On December 16, Comet Wirtanen will swing by Earth, closer to us than it's ever been in the last 400 years.

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