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Fireworks Not Your Thing? Then Look Out For a Comet on New Year’s Eve

With a telescope in hand, you can watch a comet zoom past the Earth tomorrow night

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková as seen in October 2011 (NASA)
smithsonian.com

Fireworks are the traditional way to ring in the new year, but for those wishing to mark the year's end more quietly, astronomers have offered a solution: a comet.

First discovered in 1948, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is a short-period comet that orbits the sun every 5.25 years. While it’s been increasingly visible in the sky all December long, the evening of the 31st will mark the greenish comet’s closest approach to the sun, Maddie Stone reports for Gizmodo.

Comet 45P, however, won’t be nearly as visible as the fireworks it has to compete with. Traveling along at more than 7 million miles away from Earth, it might take a sharp eye and attention to detail (and perhaps a pair of binoculars) to pick out this comet, Deborah Byrd reports for EarthSky. But if the skies are dark enough, it should be a great opportunity to see the the hazy streak as it passes in the night.

The comet will be passing near the crescent moon, and the best views will be from the Northern Hemisphere. While the blue-green color is distinctive, it will be visible in the same part of the sky as Venus—another greenish object that will shine a bit brighter than the icy comet, Stone writes. In order to make sure you’re looking at the comet and not the planet, sharp-eyed stargazers should keep a lookout for the comet’s fan-shaped tail, which should be visible with the help of a telescope or set of binoculars.

Considering how far away the comet is from the Earth, there’s absolutely no need to worry about it posing any threat, writes Stone. And the views will only get better, NBC New York reports. As Comet 45P continues making its way past the sun and back towards the Earth this Feburary, this glowing body will shine even brighter. 

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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