Currently, NASA reports that there are 3,535 known comets.
Astronomers have revealed to EarthSky that it will pass closest to Earth on December 16, and it should be visible to the naked eye.
At this distance, it will be a mere 7.1 million miles away from Earth, which is close is astronomical terms.
A map from Sky & Telescope demonstrating Comet 64P/Wirtanen's path through the sky.
TL;DR The Christmas Comet will pass by Canada on December 16th and is expected to be the brightest comet of the year.
It might be the only chance to spot the comet this close to earth for the next 500 years. However, it will also help if you know roughly where to look in the night sky. "It'd be really great if you could see it with your naked eye, but I don't want anybody to have to get huge binoculars, any binoculars will help", said Peche. Find the three famous stars of Orion's Belt, and follow a line from the lowest to the highest star, and on to an unmistakably bright red star, Aldebaran in Taurus.
"It only takes a little bit more than five years, about five-and-a-half years to go around the sun, so since it was discovered in 1948, this comet's gone around the sun like 13 times", said Alan Peche, director of the Barlow Planetarium at U.W. -Fox Valley.
That's according to Astronomy Ireland anyway, who are going to be setting up a viewing point at its headquarters in Blanchardstown to give everyone a good old look at the festive comet.
You've probably got a lot on. The paper states that it will be brightest in the sky on December 12th. "We'll show them where it is in the sky with the naked eye and then show them a close up view several thousand times better in the telescopes".
Anyone hoping to observe a comet from the ground should try and use a decent pair of binoculars.
Coming as an early Christmas present to stargazers, Comet 46P/Wirtanen will be one of the closest flybys of its kind in decades.
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