Your Christmas tree isn’t the only thing that will light up this weekend. The so-called Christmas Comet will light up Earth’s sky while you’re enjoying a Christmas market or an outdoor ice rink on Sunday.
On Sunday, December 16, a 1.2-kilometer-wide (.75 mile) comet will pass, just 12 million kilometers from Earth. It’s close enough to enjoy the view, but don’t worry –– it’s not too close to be considered dangerous.
So what is the Christmas Comet?
To experts, it is called 46P/Wirtanen, after the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen. Experts say this is going to be the brightest comet of 2018.
How do you see it?
The best way to see it is with your local astronomy club. You can also see it with this virtual telescope as a live stream. If you want to look with the naked eye, wait for a dark setting and look for a “large, diffuse, dim object,” as described by the astronomy website EarthSky.
“The comet is moving in front of the stars from one night to the next. It appears in front of the same stars as seen from both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere,” says EarthSky.
Your perspective will vary depending on your location on the planet. To learn more about the view that looks best for you, EarthSky made some handy charts based on your location here.
The best time to see it is December 13-16, so grab a warm coat, wait until the sun has disappeared, and share your binoculars with a friend this weekend. Enjoy the view!