Bright­est comet in sky set for close flyby

Mail Today - - WORLDLY WISE -

A COMET set to make its clos­est ap­proach to Earth next week is now the bright­est comet in the night sky, cast­ing a green glow over­head that stretches as wide as Jupiter.

Comet 46P/Wir­ta­nen fol­lows a 5.4-year or­bit, and is al­ready close enough to be seen with a tele­scope or even binoc­u­lars.

And, NASA says you may soon be able to spot it with the naked eye. The bright green comet will be clos­est to Earth on Dec 16, when it will be best vis­i­ble just above the east­ern hori­zon.

NASA shared a breath­tak­ing photo just last month of the comet glow­ing brightly in the sky as it makes its way to­ward its close ap­proaches with the sun and Earth.

It will be clos­est to the sun on the 12th, ac­cord­ing to Earth­sky, be­fore near­ing our planet a few days later.

The im­age, shared as part of NASA’s Astronomy Pic­ture of the Day, shows comet 46P/Wir­ta­nen when it was still too far away to be seen with the naked eye.

“From dark sky sites it could just be­come naked-eye vis­i­ble though, as its 5.4 year-long loop­ing or­bit takes it clos­est to Earth and the sun in mid Dec,” NASA ex­plains of the photo.

Flu­o­resc­ing in sun­light, its spher­i­cal coma is about half the an­gu­lar size of a full moon in this south­ern hemi­sphere tele­scopic view from Novem­ber 7.

Then the comet was about 2 light-min­utes away or 35 mil­lion kilo­me­ters from Earth­bound tele­scopes, so the pretty green­ish coma seen here is around 150,000 kilo­me­ters across. That makes it about the size of Jupiter.

The bright green comet will be clos­est to Earth on Dec 16

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