Although the brightest comet of 2018, and just visible to the naked eye, Wirtanen's comet will be seen best in dark skies through binoculars, says Jim Lattis, director of UW Space Place, the University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomy outreach center. The comet named "46P/Wirtanen" is about to pass relatively close to Earth - a mere 7.2 million miles away.
That's because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year's most stunning meteor shower.
"This comet has already been visible in larger amateur telescopes, and while the brightness of comets is notoriously hard to predict, there is the possibility that during its close approach comet 46P/Wirtanen could be visible with binoculars or to the naked eye".
What it does mean is you will be able to catch a glimpse with the naked eye, especially on December 16th, so long as light pollution doesn't block out the view.
Stargazers eager to catch the comet as it passes across the sky should be able to see it from anywhere on Earth on December 16.
The night sky will come alive this weekend when a green comet streaks by Earth on the heels of the Geminid meteor shower's display of green fireballs.
Passing just 12 million kilometers from the planet, 46P/Wirtanen will be coming closer to the Earth than most, but not close enough to cause concern.
Farnham oversees an online clearinghouse of information about the comet that educates the public and encourages collaboration among astronomers who gather data about it.More news: Corbyn tables no-confidence motion in Prime Minister
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The comet will even pass through the observing field of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), Nasa said.
So why does the comet look fuzzy or ghostly?
"We have dubbed Comet Wirtanen "the Christmas Comet of 2018" for this reason". The Virtual Telescope Project will be live streaming the comet's visit at 5 p.m. EST. With the exception of Halley's comet, which returns on the cosmically short timescale of 75 years, most famously bright comets have orbits in the hundreds or thousands of years and are rare sights.
Comet 46P was originally chosen by the European Space Agency to land the Rosetta probe on its surface, but launch delays caused a new target to be selected.
In that time, the comet will have gradually moved towards the northern sky.
"We're getting a look at stuff that was formed during the formation of the solar system and has been out in the deep freeze since then", Lattis said.