On Sunday, December 16, 2018, the Comet 46P / Wirtanen will make a close fit of the earth. The comet will be closest to our planet for over four centuries, and you can even see it without a telescope.
The 46P / Wirtanen was discovered on January 17, 1948 by the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen.
This comet is a member of the Jupiter series of comets – their longest point from the sun is near the orbit of Jupiter.
With a width of 1.1 kilometers, the sun sets quite fast for a comet – once every 5.4 years – making it a short time-off.
Although the December 16 strategy will be a distant 7.1 million miles (11.4 million km, or 30 mounds) from the earth, it is still a rather rare opportunity.
In the next approach, the comet will be located in the constellation Taurus near the Pleiades.
"This will be closest to 46P / Wirtanen has come to earth for centuries and the next will come to earth for centuries," says Dr. Paul Chodas, Head of the Center for Near Earth Earth Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"It can also be one of the brightest comets this year, offering astronomers an important opportunity to study a comet near ground-based telescopes, both optical and radar."
"This comet has already been visible in major amateur telescopes, and while the brightness of the comedy is notoriously hard to predict, there is the possibility that the comedy 46P / Wirtanen can be seen with binoculars or naked eyes."
An observation campaign is underway to take advantage of the close strategy for detailed scientific study of the characteristics of this "hyperactive" comet, which releases more water than expected, given its relatively small core.
Headed by the University of Maryland astronomers, the campaign has worldwide participation over professional and amateur astronomical societies.