‘Christmas Comet’ may be visible in the week before Christmas in Virginia

A rare opportunity to potentially see a comet without a telescope

‘Christmas Comet’ may be visible in the week before Christmas in Virginia
The 'Christmas comet' gets its name because it is the comet visible around Christmas time every year.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If clouds clear out in time, people in Virginia may have a chance to see the ‘Christmas comet’ on Sunday night into the early morning hours of Monday.

Officially called ‘comet Wirtanen’, the comet will be making one of the top 10 closest approaches by a comet to Earth in the last 70 years.

Although it is difficult to predict a comet’s brightness, some astronomers think the comet will be visible without a telescope on December 16, 2018.

Fittingly, the ‘Christmas comet’ is known to have a green glow surrounding it.

NASA said the approaching comet will be more than 7 million miles away from Earth, but it is rare for the comet to get this close.

“This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Skywatchers warn that you will not see the comet if you are attempting to view it near city lights - your best bet is to get to a rural area.

The best time to see the comet in Virginia will be between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday night when clouds will be least likely to block your view.

Although it may be possible to see it without one, you’re most likely to see it with a telescope.

At the time of closest approach, the comet will appear to be located in the constellation Taurus close to the Pleiades.

You can see a sky map to help you find the comet at this website link.

If you miss the comet on Sunday night, don’t worry. You can still see it for another week or two, and it will be nearly just as bright.

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