The brightest comet of 2018 will streak past Earth right after the peak of the Geminid meteor shower.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen will be closest to Earth on Dec. 16, according to EarthSky, and is currently the brightest comet in the sky. The comet will come within about 7 million miles of Earth, putting it among the 10 comets that have come closest to the planet since 1950, according to the University of Maryland’s astronomy department.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen appears in the sky as it orbits the sun about every five years. According the University of Maryland, its brightness varies with each approach—and 2018 is a particularly good year to try and catch the comet with a naked eye.
Stargazers eager to catch the comet as it passes across the sky should be able to see it from anywhere on Earth on Dec. 16. Here are some tips on seeing Comet 46P/Wirtanen.
- Try to find an area without too much light pollution for the clearest view. The darker the sky, the better. Websites like Dark Sky Finder and TimeandDate can help you find a good spot and the best time to see the comet.
- Can’t get outside on time? The Virtual Telescope Project will stream the comet’s passing.
- Keep your eye out for a fuzzy, sort of dim object. The comet will melt a little as it passes the sun, giving off a cloudy green hue.
- Don’t expect to see the comet’s tail. Unlike other comets, which tent to produce long trails that form streaks in the sky, Comet 46P will likely have a faint tail that is hard to see.