People interested in the outer space beyond earth and stargazing have something interesting to look forward to this year-end as the brightest comet of 2018 will fly past earth on 16th December. The comet named 46P/Wiratanen that flies past earth once every 5.4 years was discovered by scientist Carl Wiratanen in 1948 from California’s Lick Observatory. The comet’s orbit this year will be one of its closest flyby visit since 1950. As per NASA’s report there are around 3535 comets that keep rotating in different regions between earth and other planets and sometimes fly past earth depending on their flight path.
The 46P comet does not have a large observable tail as it is relatively small and measures just 0.68 miles in diameter or one tenth the size of Haley’s comet and appears like a bluish object in the sky. When it comes close to the earth it will be 7.2 million miles away and can be observed with naked eye in a region that has little pollution. The comet will be flying past southern sky by the Orion constellation and can be best viewed with binoculars or telescope. Comets are made of loosely connected masses of rock, ice and dust and their central core is just a few miles.
The comet belongs to Jupiter’s family of comets and has short periods of orbits that last around 20 years or lesser. There are around 400 comets belonging to the Jupiter family that become faint as they pass by earth. The orbits of these comets generally get disturbed when they approach Jupiter as its strong gravitational power can disturb their path through space and 46P Wiratanen also went through such brush-ups during 1972 and 1984 that pushed its orbit closer to sun. Its current orbital period has been alternating between evening sky returns and morning sky visitations.