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When you think about such an event in a historical context, you can’t help but think that when a similar light in the sky appeared in the sky one December, more than 2,000 years ago, it was a sign that baby Jesus was about to be born.
Now, the festive holidays of December are going to be marked by a similar encounter—a huge comet will sweep past Earth just around Christmas.
Although Comet 46/p Wirtanen is probably not an omen, and won’t mark the birth of a Messiah, what we do know is that it won’t cause a doomsday scenario, nor bring upon Earth the apocalypse.
The massive comet with a diameter greater than one kilometer will definitely not hit Earth according to Astronomers.
Despite the fact that there are countless potentially hazardous celestial objects near Earth, this space rock is set to miss us at a distance of seven million miles (or 0.0781 AU) on December 17. The comet will remain visible in the sky several days after passing Earth.
Speaking about the comet, Astronomer Joseph Rao said that the comet will be visible in the night sky, however, anyone attempting to observe it needs to know that it will be extremely difficult to spot in the sky.
“From locations that are plagued by light pollution, I bet that sighting this comet is going to prove to be a difficult to near-impossible task. And even for those who are blessed with dark and starry skies, finding the comet could prove to be a bit of a challenge” wrote Rao.
“In fact, under a completely dark sky, free of light pollution, perhaps the best instruments for locating the comet will be your own two eyes, especially if you use averted vision,” the astronomer explained.
And according to Rao, those who do spot the enigmatic comet with binoculars or telescopes in the night sky as it zips past Earth will most likely “describe it as a nearly circular cloud, comparable to or rivaling the Moon in angular size and appearing a bit brighter and more condensed near the center.”
Comet 46/p Wirtanen was discovered photographically on January 17, 1948, by the American astronomer Carl A. Wirtanen.
A worldwide observing campaign has been organized.