Comets, Stars, the Moon And Mars [PHIL-OSOPHY]
Look, up in the sky! It's not a bird or a plane but a super, bright comet!
And although it's the brightest comet, seeing it in the December sky will take planning because it will be hard to see it with the naked eye.
The Wirtanen Comet will be the brightest of 2018, but it's still not all that bright. It looks more like a fuzzy blob in the sky.
I like to think of comets as flying time capsules of eons-old stars. They have frozen centers and layers of dark organic material on the outside.That's why some astronomers call them "dirty snowballs." Generally comets are the size of a small town. The Wirtanen Comet is 0.75 miles in diameter.
The remarkable thing about Wirtanen is that on its closest pass on December 16, it will be only seven million miles from Earth. In space terms, that's close enough for a high-five. You'll need binoculars or a telescope for viewing, though, and the best time to see it is December 13-14, because you can also see the Geminid meteor shower along with the comet.
Bundle up the kids; if they can brave the cold, you can get them interested in watching something that's been a wonder to humans since the beginning. The fun thing about comets is that they're not here for very long, and it's an opportunity to see something that maybe you've never seen before.
And while it may not be as flashy as the Geminid streaking stars or Venus and the gleaming planets, you're going to look up and be really proud of yourself for seeing this quiet, blurred beauty.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.