Comet Wirtanen/46P passes closest to the sun on December 12, 2018, and closest to Earth on December 16. Comet Wirtanen is the brightest comet in the sky currently and the brightest of 2018.
Earlier this month observers around the globe are reporting that Comet 46P/Wirtanen is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, though you’ll likely see a dim and fuzzy light reflected from the comet that will be spread over a large atmosphere. This comet will not have a tail that will be visible, either.
The comet will be closest to the Earth, within 7.4 million miles on December 16. Astronomers say that this will be the comets 10th closest approach in modern times. At its closest to Earth, the comet will be about 30 times the moon’s distance, 7.1 million miles.
The record for the closest observed comet belongs to D/1770 L1 Lexell, which came less than six times the Earth-moon distance in June, 1770.
You’ll want to look towards the east with a small pair of binoculars or a telescope to see the fuzzy, green comet. It will be located near the constellation Orion, or the saucepan. You’ll want to make sure you are in an area with little in the way of light pollution, looking up between twilight and sunrise to catch the best viewing.
The Virtual Telescope Project will be hosting a LIVE viewing online at https://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv