In CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — After a 50,000-year absence, a comet is speeding toward Earth once again.
If NASA is to be believed, the last time the dirty snowball rolled through was during the time of the Neanderthals. On Wednesday, it will get within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) of Earth before speeding away again, probably not to return for millions of years.
The harmless green comet that was discovered less than a year ago is now visible in the northern night sky through binoculars and small telescopes, and perhaps even the naked eye in the darkest corners of the Northern Hemisphere. Throughout the rest of January, it will get brighter as it gets closer and higher above the horizon in the early morning hours. In fact, by February 10th, it will be relatively close to Mars, which can serve as a landmark.
Despite the abundance of comets in the sky over the past year, NASA’s comet and asteroid-tracking guru Paul Chodas has noted that “this one seems probably a little bit bigger and therefore a little bit brighter and it’s coming a little bit closer to the Earth’s orbit.”