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One a day Live

Here's how you can see the 'Christmas Comet' when it passes over Ireland

You better watch out, keep looking to the sky, give the horizon a scout, and I’ll tell you why - Wirtanen is coming to town.

While anticipation grows for ahead of the arrival of Santa and his reindeer, a Comet of a different type will make an appearance in Irish skies next week - and will come closer to us than ever in our lifetime.

NASA says that next week Comet 46P Wirtanen will pass Earth at a distance of about 11.6 million kilometres or 39 light-seconds - just 30 times the Earth-Moon distance.

First discovered photographically in 1948, by the American astronomer Carl A. Wirtanen, his namesake will be at its closest and brightest around mid-December, and according to Astronomy Ireland, should even be visible from city suburbs.

David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland, has calculated that although this comet goes around the Sun every 5.5 years, it will not come this close in the next 500 years.

"We have not had a comet this well placed and bright for many years" said Mr Moore.

"We have dubbed Comet Wirtanen 'the Christmas Comet of 2018' for this reason," he explained.

Astronomy Ireland will hold a viewing of the comet this Friday, December 14 at 8pm at its headquarters in Rosemount Business Park, Blanchardstown, Dublin.

It will have powerful telescopes on hand for viewing the comet, and entry is free of charge.

"We want to give the general public a close up look at this comet in powerful telescopes. We'll show them where it is in the sky with the naked eye and then show them a close-up view several thousand times better in the telescopes," Mr Moore said.

The 'Christmas Comet' features on the cover of this month's Astronomy Ireland magazine and includes a star map showing how to find it every night this month.

This issue will be available at the event, and on Astronomy Ireland's website www.astronomy.ie