2 Reasons to Look To the Skies

I just learned that comet 46p/Wirtanen will make its closest approach to Earth this evening.

The Seven Sisters
The Pleiades

It should be pretty easy to spot; close to the Pleiades, a tiny bit to the south and a bit lower in the sky.

It’s supposed to be magnitude 4 which is kind of bright. It’ll be diffuse, but even if it’s hard to pick out with the naked eye, it should be visible in a half way decent pair of binoculars.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia about 46p/Wirtanen.  Most comets have orbits that extend into the Oort Cloud, far past the orbit of Neptune.  This comet’s orbit only extends about out to Jupiter.  It will return to our cosmic neighborhood in about five and a half years as opposed to the decades it usually takes with other comets.

With luck, viewing will be better in other areas. I just stepped outside and here the sky is uniformly covered with clouds. I’ll look again later.

In the same section of the night sky, the Geminid Meteor Shower could still be visible. The shower peaked Friday morning. I’ve only had good luck viewing a meteor shower once, but when you’re lucky, you can see things that are pretty spectacular as evidenced by this dash cam video.

Happy stargazing!

References:

https://theconversation.com/we-have-a-christmas-comet-how-to-spot-2018s-interplanetary-bauble-108597

The main image is a screen cap from StarWalk 2 which I annotated with my Apple Pencil.