As happens quite often with us weather will intervene on Sunday — Monday when it comes to viewing Christmas Comet, 46P/Wirtanen. Yes, December 16 & December 17 are when it is closest to Earth. But, that does NOT mean that it will not be there on Tuesday or Wednesday. It will, albeit a bit further out and hence even fainter. So, binoculars would be a good idea.
So, do not despair. All is not lost. OK?
Enjoy. Happy Holidays.
It is expected to be just naked eye visible. Will definitely be able to see it with binoculars — and, of course, a telescope, even a small one. It will be a green fuzzy ball. There will be NO TAIL per se. So, don’t be looking for the tail. Just a fuzzy, glowing green ball. The green ball should be fairly big — bigger than a star.
For us in New England, the easiest bearing is going to be the easy to locate ‘winter cluster’ — Pleiades (the seven sisters). See the chart above.
Click to ENLARGE.
Comet C/2018 V1 ( Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto )
Discovered: November 7, 2018 (yes, just last week).
Discoverers: One is Arizona (Donald E. Machholz, Jr.) & two in Japan (Shigehisa Fujikawa & Masayuki Iwamoto). You can find more here. Hence the name which credits all three.
C/2018 V1 is much more of a CLASSIC comet than our current ‘Christmas Comet of 2018‘, i.e., 46P/Wirtanen. That is why it has a ‘C/’ designation while the other is a ‘P/’. The ‘P/’ denotes that 46P/Wirtanen is a PERIODIC comet — one that swings around the sun on a regular basis (like a commuter). The ‘C/’, on the other hand, means that is a NON-PERIODIC. It means that this comet has not been previously seen in the last 200-years. Typically it means that it is a FIRST TIME visitor from far, far out in the Solar System, ideally from the Oort Cloud, the incubator of most comets at the very edge of our Solar System.
So, we are assuming it is a FRESH comet, with a lot of frozen matter that will sublimate as the comet gets closer and closer to the Sun. That is what makes it visible, gives it a tail and with luck makes it spectacular. Right now it is touch and go. Viewed through a powerful telescope you can already see a blue tail — that color indicating the presence of ionized Carbon Monoxide (CO+).
On Tuesday, November 27, 2018 it will be at its closest to Earth — 62 million miles. Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) that could have been the GREAT COMET of 2013 would have been 40 million miles. So, C/2018 V1 will be 22 million miles further out. BUT, unlike ISON it will make it around the Sun. That is a given. It is NOT a sungrazer. Actually it doesn’t get very close to the Sun! As you can see from the above diagram it does not even cross Mercury’s orbit.
Right now it is BORDERLINE — but shows more promise than 46P.
I will keep you posted. This was a BIG heads up.
I have been keeping an eye on it as promised.
Touch-and-go right now. Teetering right on the edge of naked eye visibility — and even that means you are not going to be able to see it unless you have no ambient light. So forget seeing it from a city.
Alas. I am bummed for ALL of us.
But, I will keep on checking and let you know. OK?
Keep fingers, toes, and MOST OF ALL your eyes, crossed. That helps.
It will NOT be spectacular, and it is definitely not a great comet, BUT, it is expected to be naked eye visible and it will be — WITHOUT FAIL — appear the week before Christmas 2018. It is Periodic Comet with a 5.4 year orbital period. So, it is a well known comet and one that is not going to fizzle away as did MY comet ISON in 2013.
This is just the initial heads-up. I just found out about it today. I will keep you posted. Promise.
Just mark it on your calendar. December 16, 2018 — COMET!
Exciting. We haven’t had a decent naked eye visible comet in DECADES!