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How to See Ghostly Green Comet 46P/Wirtanen Fly by Earth This Weekend

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How to See Ghostly Green Comet 46P/Wirtanen Fly by Earth This Weekend

Postby MrFredPFL » Sun Dec 16, 2018 6:07 pm

Story :

You can expect a ghostly green blob to grow brighter in the sky near Orion in the coming days, as Comet 46P/Wirtanen makes it closest approach to the Earth in 20 years this weekend.

Shining just bright enough to be glimpsed with the naked eye, this fuzzy visitor of ice and rock will be easily visible through late December. NASA has even sponsored an observing campaign (led by the University of Maryland) to track the comet with professional and amateur astronomical groups.

The comet will make its closest approach on Sunday (Dec. 16), flying by just 7,199,427 miles (11,586,350 kilometers) from our planet. That's about 30 times the distance to the moon. It sounds far away, but in celestial terms, this is a close flyby — among the 10 closest cometary approaches since 1950, according to skywatching columnist Joe Rao. If you're worried about dangerous comets striking Earth, however, breathe easy: Wirtanen is not on the list of those that astronomers worry about. [Amazing Photos: Brilliant Comet 46P/Wirtanen Wows Stargazers]

"This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "This could be one of the brightest comets in years, offering astronomers an important opportunity to study a comet up close with ground-based telescopes, both optical and radar."

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