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How to see the once-in-a-lifetime ‘Christmas comet’ this week

(KTLA) – This time last year, skydivers were treated to “Christmas Star” when Jupiter and Saturn align and appear closest to each other from Earth’s vantage point in nearly 800 years.

Fast forward to the week of December 20, 2021 and a “Christmas comet” is appearing in the evening sky.

Comet Leonard, or C/2021 as its official name is, is The brightest comet of 2021. The object actually made its closest approach to Earth on December 12, when it was about 21 million miles from our planet.

However, stargazers will still be able to see the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle this week as it passes through the solar system, according to Gregory Leonard, a senior research fellow at the Moon and Planetary Laboratory of America University of Arizona. Leonard first discovered the comet earlier this year, and it is named after him.

Originally visible in the dark sky before sunrise, Leonard can now be seen in the evening sky and preferably at dusk.

“Starting December 13, this comet will appear very low above the horizon shortly after sunset,” Leonard explained in a note. Newsletter of U of A. “It will glide across the West-Southwest horizon between now and around Christmas.”

And while the comet was flown by Venus, report indicates that the object is steadily brightening, making it visible to the naked eye.

As Space.com Note, however, that it can still be difficult to see Comet Leonard without the aid of a telescope or binoculars for two reasons: the current position of the comet and the moon.

C/2021 is visible low and near the southwestern horizon, with best viewing time about an hour or so after sunset. That means the comet is competing with the fading light of the sunset against the ink-black background of the clear night sky – a less-than-ideal situation for small, bright object detection.

The second observational challenge is the moon, which is still nearly full, thus adding more light to the evening sky as it rises.

However, skywalkers will likely get help from the “evening star” Venus, which now prominently appears in the southwestern sky at dusk and could help spot stars. Leonard’s broom is easier, according to the University of Arizona.

“I feel like there will be something to be seen even for casual observers,” says Leonard. “Find yourself a dark sky with a good view of the horizon, bring binoculars and I think you might be rewarded.”

The comet will gradually fade as it heads towards and passes the sun, something that is expected to happen around January 3, 2022.

Leonard last flew by Earth about 80,000 years ago, so if you miss the comet this time, you won’t get another chance to see it in your lifetime.

“This is the last time we see a comet,” Leonard said. “It is accelerating at an exit velocity, 44 mph. After slingshot around the sun, it will be ejected from our solar system, and it could crash into another star system millions of years from now.”

https://kfor.com/news/how-to-see-the-once-in-a-lifetime-christmas-comet-this-week/ How to see the once-in-a-lifetime ‘Christmas comet’ this week

JACLYN DIAZ

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