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09 декабря 2018, 21:30

‘Christmas Comet’ Will Be Brightest Comet of the Year

Stay on target

Right before Christmas, Earth will have a close encounter with a comet that’s set to be the brightest comet of the year.

Dubbed the “Christmas comet,” Comet 46P/Wirtanen will be making a close pass of Earth on December 16, according to NASA. It will be at its closest distance to Earth in over four centuries.

But you don’t even have to wait until the 16th to get a glimpse of the Christmas comet, which is a member of the Jupiter family of comets. 46P/Wirtanen is bright enough to see with the naked eye above the eastern horizon all month long, and can be seen even better with a telescope or binoculars.

And stargazers are in luck: The comet is not the only bright show gracing the sky this month. The Geminids, 2018’s best meteor shower, peak the night of December 13 (and morning of December 14). At its peak, close to 100 meteors per hour will streak across the sky in a brilliant light show.

The Geminids are active every December, when Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a weird, rocky object named 3200 Phaethon. The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth’s atmosphere in a flurry of “shooting stars,” NASA posted on its Watch the Skies blog.

So how can you view the meteor shower?

The nearly First Quarter Moon sets around 10:30 p.m. local time, so wait until then to go out, NASA advises. The light from the Moon washes out the fainter meteors, which are more numerous. Find the darkest place you can, and give your eyes about 30 minutes to adapt to the dark. If you can, try to avoid looking at your cell phone, as it will mess up your night vision.

As the night progresses, the Geminid rate will increase, hitting a theoretical maximum of about 100 per hour around 2 a.m.

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Source: https://www.geek.com/news/christmas-comet-will-be-brightest-comet-of-the-year-1765050/?source=science