A new year's eve comet will have its own celestial show to celebrate the end of 2016. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that comet 45P will light the night sky and may be visible as people on Earth welcome 2017 on Saturday.
Comet 45P, also known as Comet Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, was discovered by Japanese astronomer Minoru Honda in December 1948. It is a short-period comet that returns to the inner solar system every 5.25 years.
The comet first appeared low on the western horizon earlier this month. It will reach its perihelion, or the point of orbit when a celestial object gets closest to the sun, on New Year's day.
Astronomers estimate the maximum brightness of the comet at magnitude 6, which means that looking at it is equivalent to seeing a faint star with the naked eye.
How To See Comet 45P On New Year's Eve
Astronomers predict that comet 45P will rendezvous with the crescent moon on New Year's eve to say goodbye to 2016. Skywatchers may also want to note that the comet is in the constellation Capricornus, which is close to Venus. Venus happens to shine brightly in the sky and gives off a red color.
Because of its proximity to the lunar orb, comet 45P will be easy to spot. It will be visible shortly after sunset and will be above the horizons before it sets with the moon.
Although comet 45P is too dim to be viewed with the naked eye, it will be easier to see it with the help of a telescope or a pair of binoculars albeit the visibility may be affected by weather conditions. It is also easier to distinguish the comet from a star or a planet because it gives off a blueish green color and has a fan-shaped tail.
More Comets To View In 2017
NASA said that comet 45P will mark the beginning of a year of better comet viewing.
"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 first we'll be able to see is Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková," NASA said.
For those who are too busy with fireworks and parties on Saturday evening, you still have chance to see the comet again. Comet 45P will be closest to Earth on Feb. 11. By then, the celestial body will just be 7.4 million miles away and you may be able to see it even without binoculars.