Hyperactive comet & # 39; to make one of the closest approximations



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CTVNews.ca Staff

Published Sunday, December 9, 2018 1:20 PM EST

Last Updated Sunday, December 9, 2018 1:31 PM EST

A comet that is coming closer and closer to Earth in the last few months will soon be closer to its approach.

Comet 46P / Wirtanen will pass approximately 11.6 million kilometers from the planet on December 16. For reference, the distance between Earth and Moon is 384,400 kilometers.

Proximity alone is rare – it will be the tenth closest comet on Earth to be recorded – but what really excites the sky watchers is the comet's brightness. Many of the closest comets were barely visible to the naked eye, but the Comet 46P / Wirtanen is expected to be near its brightest point as it passes.

As a result, the comet is expected to be visible from most areas of the Earth if conditions are clear. People who watch the skies of most Canadian communities will be able to see it from 5:30 p.m. and 6 pm on December 16, reaching its highest point in the sky between 10 pm. and at 10:30 am, and then disappearing at 4 am on December 17, according to In-The-Sky.org.

There is a zero percent chance the comet hits the Earth, according to astronomers at the University of Maryland, though it can remain visible in the night sky for several weeks after the December 16 peak.

Astronomers in Maryland describe Comet 46P / Wirtanen as a "hyperactive" comet, emitting more water than one should expect based on the size of its nucleus.

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