Look up at a green, fuzzy comet and shooting stars

Amateur astronomers will be treated to two great spectacles this Friday night: a green, fuzzy comet – which appears only once every five years – and shooting stars, known as the Geminid meteor shower.

ANU astronomer Dr Brad Tucker said people should enjoy watching Comet 46P/Wirtanen, also known as the Christmas comet, while they can because they won’t see this comet again for another several years.

“Look towards the east with a small pair of binoculars or a telescope to see the green, fuzzy comet. It will be near the constellation Orion, or the saucepan,” said Dr Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“This comet orbits the Sun roughly once every five years.”

At the same time, the Geminid meteor shower will light up the night-sky as Earth passes through the tail of an asteroid. Small rocks break away from the asteroid, known as 3200 Phaethon, and burn up in the atmosphere to produce this spectacular event. The name Geminid comes from the Gemini constellation.

The 3200 Phaethon asteroid does one orbit in 1.4 Earth years, and as it passes around the Sun bits of the asteroid come off.

Dr Tucker said the best time to see the comet would be from 9pm this Friday (AEDT), and the shooting stars will light up the night-sky a few hours later from about 11.30pm.

“The meteor shower will be visible from anywhere in Australia and if you have a clear, dark view to the north and east, this will offer the best viewing – you can expect to see between 10 and 30 meteors per hour,” he said. 

“Even in a city, you will be able to see the brighter meteors.”

FOR INTERVIEWS:

Dr Brad Tucker
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
ANU College of Science
T: +61 2 6125 6711 
M: +61 433 905 777 
E: brad.tucker@anu.edu.au

For media assistance, contact Will Wright on +61 2 6100 3486, the ANU media hotline on +612 6125 7979 or at media@anu.edu.au

About The Australian National University

ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

The Australian National University
East Road, Acton
2601 Canberra