There is some big and exciting news for sky watchers in the coming months. Two comets are headed our way soon. No they will not hit us. They will both safely pass us by, the experts say.
Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner will be the first comet to pass us. Astronomers have given it the simple nickname of 21P. It is the parent object of the Draconid meteor shower.
Comet 21P is approaching at an incredible speed of about 14 miles a second and is being picked up by small telescopes. September 10, 2018 will be its closest approach and will safely sweep past Earth at a distance of 36 million miles from us. With an estimated visual magnitude of 6.5 to 7.0, you will not be able to see 21P with the naked eye, but you should be able to see 21P with binoculars and small backyard telescopes.
Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner will return again on September 18, 2058 with another close approach.
The second visitor, Comet Wirtanen will make a much more closer approach and will probably to be visible to the naked eye in December 2018, with its closest approach to the sun on December 12, followed by the closest approach to the Earth on December 16. Wirtanen could possibly reach a visual magnitude of 3.5 to 6.
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