The year’s brightest comet streaks by North Carolina this weekend

The year’s brightest comet streaks by North Carolina this weekend

So what is the Christmas Comet?

According to the website, it won't be as pretty as Hale-Bopp was back in 1997, or as faint as Halley's Comet in 1986, or the bust that Kohoutek turned out to be in the winter of 1973.

One negative, however, is that we'll have a moon in that part of the sky - that'll make it tougher to see.

Santa's sleigh isn't the only thing you'll want to try and catch a glimpse of in the sky this month: Comet 46P/Wirtanen, dubbed the "Christmas comet" by some, is also set to blaze across the December sky.

The year's brightest comet makes its closest approach to Earth this weekend, passing by one of the night sky's most handsome star clusters, the Pleiades, along the way. But even now, it's currently the brightest comet in the night sky, and the brightest of 2018. "Next week we're predicting it'll be milder with partly cloudy to mostly clear nighttime skies as we get closer to the first day of winter, which is Friday".

"We should be able to see it around 10 o' clock at night", she said.

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Comet 46P/Wirtanen now resides among the background stars of Taurus the Bull, between the magnificent Pleiades star cluster (M45) and the 1st-magnitude star Aldebaran.

Comet Wirtanen has already been visible in larger amateur telescopes, and there is the possibility that, during its closest approach this weekend, comet Wirtanen could be visible with binoculars or to the naked eye.

She said the comet won't have the trademark tail since it's in the wrong position and finding it won't be obvious unless a person knows where to look and is really searching for it.

Look to the south, about halfway up from the horizon, find the three stars of Orion's belt, then turn your gaze to the west a bit.

She said the comet will be below and to the left of the Pleiades, known to astronomers as "the seven sisters".

Not only do they occasionally grace our skies and put on a attractive display (I vividly remember as a child seeing Comet Khohoutek back in 1973), but they are also left-over remnants from the creation of the solar system - primordial chunks of dirt and ice left untouched and floating around in space for the past 4.6 billion years. With a width of 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers), 46P/Wirtanen orbits the Sun fairly quickly for a comet - once every 5.4 years - making it a short-period comet. Here are some tips on seeing Comet 46P/Wirtanen.

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