Comet 45P, as skywatchers are calling it, is a short-period comet, discovered in 1948. Its orbit around the sun takes only 5.25 years, and, with great predictability, it returns to our skies about that often. Thus this comet has been mentioned frequently throughout 2016 – within the astronomical community, among those who routinely use telescopes and binoculars to find faint sky objects – as one to search for around the end of this year. That’s because its perihelion – or closest point to the sun – happens on December 31, 2016.
Sure enough, the comet has been spotted by amateur astronomers using telescopes and even binoculars. It’s been reported at just around the limit of visibility to the unaided eye.
Gerald Rhemann in southwest Africa caught the comet earlier this month.
It’s in the west shortly after sunset, not far from the planets Venus and Mars.
Bottom line: Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova on December 22, 2016. Photo by Gerard Rhemann, used with permission.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.