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On a Clear Night, Look to the Sky to See the ‘Christmas Comet’

This photo shows Christmas Comet with a Geminid Meteor. (Photo by Todd Bush)

By Nathan Ham

The final comet of 2018 is making itself known through the rest of December. The 46P/Wirtanen, more popularly known as the “Christmas Comet” this year, was discovered on January 17, 1948 by Carl Wirtanen, an American Astronomer, as the Lick Observatory in San Jose, California.

One of the things that makes the Christmas Comet so special is that it is bright enough that it can be seen with the naked eye, meaning you don’t need to dust off an old telescope or go buy one if you want to see the unusually green glow of the comet.

Local photographer Todd Bush has already snagged some terrific photos of the Christmas Comet that he shared with the High Country Press. Be sure to check out some of Todd’s other photographic shots at https://www.bushphoto.com.  

This week is the peak week to see the comet as it makes its closest approach to earth in 70 years. As the rest of the month continues, you will still be able to see the comet, however it will not be as bright as it will be this week. Locations in the Southern Hemisphere will lose sight of the comet by Christmas while locations in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to see the comet until early January, although by then you will most definitely need a telescope to see the comet streaking through the sky.

Weather conditions Tuesday night may be your best chance to see the comet. Clouds with rain showers and possibly some snow showers will roll into the High Country starting on Wednesday night and lasting through Saturday morning.

46P/Wirtanen will be back in 2024 as it completes its orbit around the sun once every 5.4 years.

The comet can be seen here dancing around with Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades over the lights of Boone. (Photo by Todd Bush)