A comet for Christmas

We have a comet in sight, comet 46P/Wirtanen will visit us in December!

In very dark places such as La Palma, you may see it naked eye. Although its apparent size will barely exceed the apparent size of Jupiter as seen from Earth, it will be quite colorful given its green tail and its short distance to us (about 30 times the distance Moon-Earth).

Since this comet visits us frequently, as it has an orbital period of 5.4 years, ESA has considered visiting it previously. Comet 46P/Wirtanen was the original destination of the Rosetta probe that finally visited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in September 2016, but did not visit 46P/Wirtanen due to delays in the original launch date postponed for Rosetta.

So for the moment we will settle for observing 46P naked eye or through a small telescope. To find it, follow its trajectory from Orion to Taurus and keep in mind that its magnitude is expected to be between 3-5 (although it is difficult to predict), that is, a little less bright than the Polar star.

If you want to know more we recommend this link. In it you can also find the trajectory in the sky of this comet.

Photo: Image Credit & Copyright: Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN)