Look up in the sky this New Year's Eve, and you're likely to see something other than a fireworks show.
If you’re looking for something in the sky on the night of New Year’s Eve that’s a little more grandiose than a fireworks show, how about a visit from a comet? NASA says a comet will be near the moon and visible to those looking west on New Year’s Eve, although you’ll need binoculars to see it.
Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, which was named for the astronomers who discovered it all the way back in 1948, completes its orbit every 5.25 years and was first visible on Dec. 15 in the low western horizon. On New Year’s Eve, it will appear near the moon, observable from the Northern Hemisphere.
The comet will reach its maximum brightness when it swings back around the sun in 2017, achieving a magnitude 6, which will make it as bright as a faint star to the naked eye.
“We haven’t had a good easy-to-see comet in quite a while, but beginning in December and through most of 2017 we will have several binocular and telescopic comets to view,” the NASA statement reads. “The first we’ll be able to see is Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, which will appear low on the western horizon on December 15th. On that date, the comet will pass the pretty globular cluster M75. By the 21st, it will appear edge-on, sporting a bluish-green head and a thin, sharp view of the fan-shaped tail. On New Years Eve, the comet and the crescent moon will rendezvous to say farewell to 2016. A “periodic” comet is a previously-identified comet that’s on a return visit. Periodic comet 45P returns to the inner solar system every 5.25 years, and that’s the one that will help us ring in the new year.”