A binocular comet
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.