If you're lucky, when you go to look at the night sky this weekend, you'll see a new bluish light. Except it's not new; it's been around for millennia and was discovered by humans in 1948. It's 46P/Wirtanen, better known as the "Christmas Comet."
There's a Christmas comet on its way — and a meteor shower too https://t.co/z6vQNKqqsX https://t.co/7JwAaNEBPZ— ABC News (@ABC News)1544300276.0
The comet is on approach and potentially visible to the naked eye if you live in a low light-pollution area. When the comet reaches its closest pass of Earth, it may even be visible from some cities, but you'll definitely want a telescope to get the best look before the 16th.
Many are trying to catch a glimpse of the comet.
@erfmufn Nice work, tried to locate it last night with no luck, going to try again tonight.— GrantPetersen (@GrantPetersen)1543413441.0
@abcnews @AulaniFreitas It's just visible in Australia?🤔— Da Kanaka (@Da Kanaka)1544350123.0
@abcnews Marking my calendar!— JC Carrera (@JC Carrera)1544325310.0
@abcnews @mmellyonaire CAN WE GO LOOK AT THIS— Liana Tran (@Liana Tran)1544335358.0
It may not be much more than a fuzzy patch of light depending on the day and your location. It will not have a tail, as many are used to seeing with comets. If you're having trouble, even a simple pair of binoculars can assist. Unfortunately, the night it will be closest, we're expected to have a bright moon, but it should set around 1:00 a.m. EST.
It's a stellar looking interstellar event!
@erfmufn That is really cool!— Greg Quicke (@Greg Quicke)1543469767.0
@erfmufn That’s pretty awesome!— Jennifer Rukavina (@Jennifer Rukavina)1543463094.0
@erfmufn @maximaxoo Stunning!— The Next Next Generation Podcast (@The Next Next Generation Podcast)1543496983.0
The comet was discovered in 1948 by Carl A. Wirtanen. It took more than a year to be able to confirm it as a short-period comet. Every five years, the comet makes a pass by Earth, but it's often too far away to be seen without a telescope. And that's what makes this year's event all the more special. The comet won't be this close for another 20 years.
It's important to get the right information on how to view it.
@erfmufn What exposure settings do you suggest/did you use? I'm guessing that a wider FOV wouldn't be advised, as t… https://t.co/iRqc5Hlf2h— Christopher Becke (@Christopher Becke)1543413710.0
On December 16, Comet Wirtanen will swing by Earth, closer to us than it's ever been in the last 400 years. Learn m… https://t.co/P1onWdkyiA— NASA Marshall (@NASA Marshall)1544147111.0
@WGreymane @NASA_Marshall Reading is fundamental. It’s visible all month. Just closer on the 16th.— car88win DJ / JD fan 🏳️🌈🇱🇷☮️ ❤️wife 11/11/11 (@car88win DJ / JD fan 🏳️🌈🇱🇷☮️ ❤️wife 11/11/11)1544352219.0
To spot the comet in North America, look to the southern sky, near the Pleiades star cluster. If you decide to look on the 13th or 14th, you can also catch the Geminid meteor shower.
And try not to mistake it for a man known for wearing red up in the night sky.
@erfmufn SANTA!!!!!— Robin Hake (@Robin Hake)1544326196.0
@abcnews Tony Stark is gonna be saved guys— ᴬᶦˢʰᵃ (@ᴬᶦˢʰᵃ)1544386829.0
@abcnews @NiceChess757 https://t.co/abZJ14qIaY— ocean beach bum (@ocean beach bum)1544327776.0
@abcnews https://t.co/sxbp4lHtEz— Will (@Will)1544372671.0
@abcnews It's Santa Claus— Richard Monin 🇦🇺 (@Richard Monin 🇦🇺)1544300503.0
While these astronomical events are recorded and reliable, they're also rare for the average person. It might be worth it to find a warm sleeping bag, some good company, and spend a very late night or very early morning watching some space rocks.