The comet Wirtanen will make its closet approach to Earth in centuries this weekend, being 7.1 million miles away on Sunday. That puts the comet about 30 times farther away than our own moon, but it’s still within the top ten closest flybys of a comet to Earth in the last 70 years!
This comet is better viewed with a telescope, but it could be possible to see it with binoculars or even the naked eye. However you can see it, the comet will appear more ‘clouded’ than other objects in the sky. This is because the tail of this comet is more spread out, and thus so are the materials that reflect light making it visible. This can also make the comet harder to identify, especially when the moon is almost full (as it is now).
You’ll need to look closely, but this is rare opportunity so it’s worth trying to spot it! The comet will start in the eastern sky near 6PM Sunday evening, before traveling to its highest point in the sky to the south around 9PM. Its path across the sky will continue to the western horizon around 3:30AM, after which it will no longer be observable.
Sunday evening is one of the better nights we’ve had in a while for skywatching. Clouds will break up throughout the day Sunday, leaving us partly cloudy by Sunday night. As skies clear out, temperatures will be colder than previous nights; lows Sunday night into Monday morning will fall into the low 30s.