The New Year’s Eve comet, known officially as Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, won’t be the only thing visible in the night sky on Saturday. According to reports, skywatchers from the Northern Hemisphere may also be able to spot a few planets on New Year’s Eve, namely Venus, Mars, and Neptune.
Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova may have a rather long and hard-to-remember name, even by the standards of celestial beings’ official names, but as AL.com pointed out, the comet was named after the three scientists who had first spotted it almost 70 years ago, in 1948. Comet 45P was first spotted this year on December 15, on the low western horizon, and is expected to be found near the moon on New Year’s Eve.
The comet isn’t a particularly bright one, AL.com added, and that means it may be similar in brightness to a faint star. As such, NASA scientists recommend that skywatchers use a telescope or strong binoculars to view 45P in all its glory on New Year’s Eve. In terms of orientation, it’s suggested that one tries to spot the comet after sunset, and look to the west, as it will then be on the left side of the moon. Clouds may pose a hindrance, but those who are “away from bright lights” have the best chances of getting a good view.
Seeing the comet clearly would truly be a challenge for most people, wrote EarthSky, which also stressed the use of a telescope or binoculars, and added that an “extremely dark sky” would also be needed for optimal viewing.
“Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is currently estimated at 6th magnitude. That’s barely within the limit for visibility with the unaided eye. A diffuse object, like a comet, at that brightness will be even tougher to see.”
The sighting of the so-called “New Year’s Eve comet” 45P is considered a rather rare one, as it usually shows up approximately every five years or so. Its path is about 7 million miles away from Earth, making it about 30 times farther than the distance separating Earth from the moon.
In another interesting note for skywatchers hoping to end the year with a bang, the New Year’s Eve comet will also be joined by a few planets in the night sky, according to a report from AccuWeather.
“Venus will be the easiest planet to spot as it is the brightest natural object in the night sky after the moon. Mars will appear higher up in the sky than Venus, giving off a reddish color helping to set it apart from stars and other planets. Neptune will also be easy to find for those that already have their binoculars or telescope out, appearing extremely close to Mars on New Year’s Eve. Despite Neptune being the fourth largest planet in the solar system, it is too far away from Earth to be visible with the unaided eye.”
Those who aren’t able to catch the New Year’s Eve comet today will have another chance at it in a couple of months. According to the International Business Times, Comet 45P will be showing up in February, 2017, this time moving away from the sun. Due to that, it will be most visible right before sunrise, and it’s believed that it may even be brighter than it would be on New Year’s Eve. Still, the IBTimes noted that people may again require a pair of binoculars to get a clear sighting of 45P.
Waiting until February isn’t the only alternative option, though. IBTimes also recommended checking out Slooh, which will be live streaming the appearance of the New Year’s Eve comet for those who wouldn’t be able to head outside, or use special equipment in order to view it.
[Featured Image by Triff/Shutterstock]